AEK Athens bounced back strong in Group A on Thursday with an accomplished 82-75 win over visiting Climamio Bologna at home in Athens. The Yellows were ahead most of the game, and in the final period, despite Climamio's attempts to rally, kept their cool by hitting 7 of 8 late free throws to seal the win. AEK lifted its record to 3-6 in Group A but remains two victories out of all-important fifth place. Climamio drops to 5-4 and at least retains options for a third-place tie with Bamberg. Michalis Pelekanos exploded for 19 points, 8 rebounds, 7 steals, 5 assists and 2 blocks to lead AEK. Spyros Panteliadis added 15 for the winners, while Lionel Chalmers had 14 and Panteleimon Papaioakeim 12. Sani Becirovic was the best scorer for Climamio, with 24 points. Marco Belinelli added 13 and Nate Green 11.
Chalmers and Coppenrath started hot, combining for all of AEK's points in a 6-2 start. Climamio was unable to set up its offense easily and committed turnovers during the first 3 minutes, before Stefano Mancinelli connected from the arc to get the guests started. AEK reacted by getting layups from Pelekanos and Coppenrath to go up 10-5. Despite missing starting center Giannis Bouroussis, AEK found second-chance solutions in the paint as Amit Tamir chipped in a basket-plus-free throw to make it 13-5. That was AEK's fifth offensive rebound to just 1 thusfr by Climamio, while the turnover rate was exactly the opposite. Kiwane Garris scored a nice baseline layup in the traffic for the guests, all the better for how much Climamio struggled to score. That, however, ignited a 0-7 rally by the guests with which Becirovic, Travis Watson and Nate Green trimmed the margin at 17-14. Chalmers returned to beat the buzzer and keep AEK in charge, 19-14 after one quarter
Climamio started the second period decisively, forcing AEK into consecutive errors. As such, the visitors' offensive morale improved as Becirovic exploded for 5 points in a row on a fastbreak-triple and left-handed layup, putting Climamio in front, 21-19. Pelekanos stepped up took the lead back for AEK with a triple, to which Slaven Rimac added a shorter jumper for 24-19. Suddenly, both teams were shooting extremely well as Watson and Green popped some nice baskets for Climamio, as did and Pelekanos and Coppenrath for AEK. The hosts kept in front until Climamio coach Jasmin Repesa ordered zone defense, which slowed AEK's offense considerable. Meanwhile, Marco Bellineli popped a jumper for Climamio to cut the difference to 31-30, but both teams struggled down after that and AEK made it to the halftime lockers ahead by 33-32.
Papaioakim scored in the paint after another offensive rebound for AEK to open the second quarter. Watson answered back and Climamio started running until Belinelli put his team ahead at 37-36. Erazem Lorbek and Pelekanos exchanged baskets as the lead changed hands four times in less than 2 minutes before the score landed 41-42 for Climamio on Watson's basket-plus-free throw. AEK was missing a lot of free throws at that stage, but the hosts suddenly found 5 points in a single possession as Coppenrath nailed a triple while Papaioakim drew a foul and made the free throws. When Panteliadis scored a fastbrek layup, AEK had an 8-0 run and a 49-42 lead. The teams exchanged free throws as both were in the foul bonus early. Green dunked to cut the difference to 52-49, but Panteliadis proved the go-to guy while answering back twice for AEK. His 9 points in the quarter on 4-for-4 shooting left AEK in front 57-51 after 30 minutes.
Dalibor Bagaric made a two-handed dunk and Becirovic nailed a three-pointer to make it a new game, at 57-56, early in the final quarter. Climamio was now tightening its defense and AEK had trouble responding. Bologna used a zone now, but this time AEK proved prepared as Papaioakim was fed inside to make it 61-58. Climamio returned to man-to-man defense, and Pelekanos now became AEK's go-to guy for a 63-58 lead. Lorbek and Belinelli took Climamio's offensive responsibility in cutting the difference to 67-64 with 5 minutes left to play, but Pelekanos and Chalmers, with an impressive dunk, helped AEK to run away at 71-64. After Lorbek scored inside, Pelekanos proved to be the man by scoring a difficult fade-away jumper on the shot-clock buzzer. Becirovic combined a basket-plus-foul to make it 74-69, but Climamio missed its next two attempts to get closer from the arc and AEK did what was necessary down the stretch to become a surprise 82-75 home winner over one of Group A's favorites.
Thursday, January 5, 2006
Stelios Kyriakoglou, Athens