The Euroleague started on Thursday night in Barcelona with Barcelona taking its first win at home, 69-57 over visiting AEK in Group B. The final score didn't reflect the wide difference of the first half, when Barca had led by as many as 30 points. However, the hosts relaxed in the second half due to the big cushion at the same time as AEK improved its shooting percentage and overall performance to cut the defict down to 12 points on the final play. Dejan Bodiroga led Barca on the offensive end with 14 points, while Rodrigo De la Fuente added 13. For AEK, Andreas Glyniadakis led all scorers with 16 points and Davor Kus added 10 coming off the bench, and sparking AEK's reaction in the second half.
Juan Carlos Navarro welcomed the Euroleague season in Barcelona with a triple to start the game despite AEK's zone defense. On the other end, Glyniadakis replied with free throws. Bodiroga fed Gregor Fucka in the paint for a 7-2 score to which Fucka himself added a pair of free. Glyniadakis scored once before AEK entered a drought that would last for 4 minutes. Vlado Ilievski fed Roberto Dueñas and Fucka added more free throws for a 13-4 advantage, while AEK was stuck at 1 of 5 from the field. AEK coach Fotis Katsikaris had already changed four players, and it wasn't until Quadre Lollis scored under the rim that AEK gave signs of life again. Dueñas was the lord of the paint and scored to make it 17-6. Nikos Zisis scored for AEK, but Bodiroga and Fucka boosted the hosts to 25-12. A last basket by Giannis Kakiouzis left the scoreboard at 25-14 after 10 minutes.
AEK wasn't able to find a combination of players on court to stop Barca as Navarro delivered a sweet move on the 24-second clock for a 27-16 score. De la Fuente came off the bench and scored 8 consecutive points, most from the free throw line, where Barca had already dropped a perfect 14 of 14 shots. The hosts now led 35-16. Ilievski gave Barca the first 20-point advantage despite missing the first free throw of the night. Christian Drejer also showed up for the party with a turnaround jumper which was answered by Glyniadakis with his own. The game reached the break with an Ilievski triple that made it 49-23. By that point, Barca had 7 steals and 2 turnovers while AEK was on 2 steals and 10 turnovers.
AEK just couldn't improve its shooting percentages after halftime, but Barca was distracted by the wide margin until Navarro's next triple landed. Kus appeared for AEK to score 6 straight points with jumpers and layups. Just the same, the two teams made a combined 4 of 21 shots in the quarter. Nikos Hatzis sparked 0-8 run for AEK, but Bodiroga made up half those points himself now. Glyniadakis remained steady, reachign 16 points already, but Barca's lead after 30 minutes stll stood at 20 points, 58-38.
The last quarter confirmed the trend of the third: Barca was completely relaxed and lost concentration while AEK knew it could only make the score look better. As such, Hatzis nailed the first triple of AEK after 10 attempts for 59-45. Kus, the man who changed the mood of the game in the second half, scored again for a 61-49 scoreboard It was clear that Barca would have enough cushion to win the game, but AEK showed clear signs of improvement as the home fans were getting more nervous by the minute. Roger Grimau added some isolated points from the stripe as Lollis, Kus and Giannis Bouroussis managed to pull AEK within 67-57 in the final minute. But the difference from the first half needed more time than that to overcome.
Thursday, November 4, 2004