Revenge was sweet and easy for Benetton Treviso on Thursday night as it downed AEK of Athens 90-74 to even their Euroleague quarterfinal at a victory each and send it to Game 3 showdown in Greece next week. When it might have been nervous after the way it lost Game 1, in overtime after leading by 14 in the fourth quarter, Benetton worked methodically to turn back AEK this time. Marcus Brown led the way early, with an explosive 15-point first quarter that gave Benetton all the room it needed to work with. Brown?s teammates took turns stepping up the rest of the game, though forward Jorge Garbajosa deserved mention for his inside-outside effectiveness on offense, and Petar Naumoski on defense for keeping AEK's perimeter scorer's off-guard the whole game.
"Tonight we have showed what we can do, we have played 40 minutes as a strong team," coach Luigi Bucchi said. "We are ready for Game 3, but we respect AEK a lot and we are waiting for their reaction."
Brown nailed a three-pointer on the game's final shot to finish with 27, a total that included four three-pointers. Benetton shot in 11 of its 19 attempts from beyond 6.25 meters. That was 11 more made than AEK, which missed on all 10 of its three-point attempts. Garbajosa added 19 points for Benetton and Naumoski 17. Andrew Betts led AEK with 13 points.
"More than the loss, I'm really sorry for the way in which we have played," AEK coach Dusan Ivkovic said, "without intensity on defense, heart, spirit, soul. AEK's successes have those qualities as their origina, but we weren?t able to put them on the court tonight. We lost. We didn't have a chance in the whole game."
A 15-2 first-quarter run that featured some smooth outside shooting propelled Benetton into a position of control. Garbajosa scored 7 of the first 9 of those points, including a three-pointer which was quickly copied by Brown (twice) and Marcelo Nicola as Madrid's lead climbed to 18-8. Now Pittis was feeding Alan Tomidy for a dunk, Pittis himself trailed a fast break to score, and Brown was filling in all the blanks. By the end of the quarter Brown was up to 15 points, while Benetton's lead was at 31-16.
In the second quarter, it was all that AEK could do to cut a few points off that lead. Demos Dikoudis got AEK going on the right foot with a pair of baskets, and was quickly followed by Andrew Betts. It seemed that AEK was finding some holes inside of the Benetton defense. At the same time, the visitors had to find something to do with Brown, who was resting a few minutes. When he came back, Brown was quiet indeed. Problem was, AEK's own offensive spark, Ibrahim Kutluay, had been quiet the whole game to that point. He got to the foulline for four free throws near the end of the quarter, but they counted for all his output in the half. As that half ended, Petar Naumoski joined the three-point parade for Benetton to cement the lead in double digits as 46-35.
The third quarter was not much different, as Benetton's playmakers went about finding spaces in the AEK defense where few before had found them. That usually ended with Garbajosa or one of the other big men getting free near the basket for and easy two. As the lead climbed to 20 points at 63-43, only the periodic inside shots of Betts seemed to go in for AEK. If AEK was going to pull of another miracle, its three-point aces would have to get going soon. They did, somewhat, cutting the deficit back down to its halftime level of 11 points, 69-58, with five minutes left, then to 71-62 at the 3:00 mark. But by that time Kutluay had fouled out. Unlike in Game 1, Benetton now make all its free throw chances, and Garbajosa did the rest, with dunks and hook shots to keep AEK down.
Thursday, March 1, 2001