Pau-Orthez has moved into the thick of the Group A race by getting its first road win of the season, 71-83 against AEK in Lamia, Greece on Wednesday. The Greek Champions are now the only winless team in the competition at 0-5 losses and without a miraculous turnaround might have to kiss the Top 16 goodbye. The miracles on Thursday belonged to Pau, which took over early and never looked back. Former AEK center Rod Sellers was fantastic with 20 points, while Pau-Orthez had three more players with double digits in scoring: Dragan Lukovski with 15 (plus 6 assists), Kyle Hill with 14, including 3 fo 5 threes, and Florent Pietrus with 13 (plus 7 rebounds). For AEK, Mikalia Kakiouzis was unbelievable, scoring 27 points and singlehandedly willing the hosts to within 68-69 with 4 minutes remaining. But it was all for naught.
From the beginning of the game, Pau Orthez showed incredible strength under the boards, so at the end of the first period, Sellers already had 9 points and Florent Pietrus 7. Lukovski gave his team great rhythm and organization, while Pietrus¿ younger brother Mickael gave the visitors a top lead of 11 points hitting a huge three-pointer at the buzzer, 16-27. For AEK, only Kakiouzis tried to keep his team alive by scoring 10 points in 10 minutes. John Rillie had only 2 and Rodrick Blackney won on zero points, making it was impossible for winless AEK to follow Pau. AEK tried to cause some problems to its opponents by playing zone defense, but the French team had nice ball handling and finished the first quarter with 3 three-pointers made.
Well, AEK is not the L.A. Lakers, but they tried to react in the second period. Center Andrew Betts and power forward Pero Antic scored 4 points each, so the Yellows managed to cut the deficit to 25-30. The French answer was sudden, however, especially when Fabien Dubos entered the court! He scored 6 points in a great performance that helped Pau reestablish a nine-point lead, 25-34. AEK captain Nikos Chatzis and Nikos Zisis scored 5 and 4 points respectively, but it was Hill again who hit another big three for a 35-44 Pau lead at half time. By then, AEK had missed all but 1 of 8 three-pointers, while Pau hit 5 of 13, marking the main difference between the two teams.
The third period was probably the best for Pau, since its players were looking the basket like a tub! Lukovski, Mickael Pietrus, Florent Pietrus and Hill hit one three-pointer each and those big shots conserved a seven-point lead for the French team, 56-63 after 30 minutes. AEK tried to reach its opponents many times, but when Blackney and Kakiouzis hit big shots from the perimeter, Orthez had the answer. Not only from the perimeter, but in the inside game too, with Sellers scoring 6 more points to reach 15 in 30 minutes. Kakiouzis finished the third period with 16 points and Chatzis had 10.
What Mikalis Kakiouzis did in the first 6 minutes of the last period was heroic! Scoring 8 consecutive points, he cut the margin to 1 point, 68-69, but Sellers had the answer. The veteran center scored 5 straight points, on a basket and 3 free throws, while Hill added an important shot and Pau was away again at 68-76. That was it! AEK was wondering what the future could hold for a team saddled with 5 losses, while Pau was sitting among the top dogs in a very interesting group.
Wednesday, November 6, 2002
Kostas Sotiriou, Athens