Aris TT Bank took a critical step torwards to reach the Top 16 in regular season Group B by downing Cibona 76-83 in Zagreb, Croatia on Thursday night. Aris improved to 6-4 in the Group B standings and will be tied for the fourth place at the end of this round. Meanwhile, Cibona dropped its fourth straight game and is now sixth at 3-7. The Croatian champs may need to settle for fighting to become the best sixth-ranked team in the competition if they hope to advance to the next stage. Jeremiah Massey led the winners with 20 points on 8-for-12 two-point shooting and Dimitris Tsaldaris was the key factor for Aris with a Euroleague carrer-high 18 points on 4-for-4 three-pointers, Bracey Wright added 13 and Reyshawn Terry had 11 for Aris. Chris Warren led Cibona with 29 points on 6-for-9 two-point and 5-for-8 three-point shooting, while Larry Ayuso added 23 for the hosts. Tsaldaris and Giorgios Kalaitzis helped Aris to get a 41-48 edge at halftime. Ayuso and Warren allowed Cibona stayed in the game and an 8-0 run got the hosts within 70-73 midway through the fourth quarter. However a 0-7 run that Tsaldaris capped with a triple helped Aris to seal a big road win.
Warren opened the scoring with a wild dunk off a steal that Massey matched with a close jumper at the other end. Ayuso tried to get the crowd involved with a three-pointer, good for a 5-2 Cibona lead. Hanno Mottola shined with a basket in the low post, but Ayuso answered from downtown to give Cibona an 8-4 edge. Massey made free throws, but a close basket by Luka Zoric and a put-back layup by Luksa Andric allowed Cibona to take a 12-6 lead. Tsaldaris nailed a jumper that Tre Kelley erased with free throws. Tsaldaris finished a third-chance Aris offense with a three-pointer and a fast break layup by Terrell Castle got Aris within 14-13. Ayuso kept pacing Cibona with a layup in transition, but a wild layup-plus-foul by Massey tied the game at 16-16. Hoskin hit a foul shot, but Tsaldaris gave Aris its first lead, 17-18. The guests switched to a 2-3 zone defense that allowed Kalaitzis to get a fast break layup, causing Cibona to call timeout at 17-20. Sam Hoskin and Mottola traded baskets before Kelley got Cibona within 20-22. An uncontested layup by Kalaitzis fixed the score at 20-24 after 10 minutes.
Andric shined with a huge dunk at the start of the second quarter, but Wright beat the hosts' zone defense with a six-meter jumper. Warren scored in the paint, but Terry answered from downtown to keep Aris ahead, 24-29. Wright scored in penetration, as the hosts could not manage to adjust their defense. Andric shined with a sweet move in the low post and Ayuso added a baseline jumper to get Cibona as close as 28-31. Kalaitzis made foul shots off an Aris timeout, but Ayuso matched those with a driving layup. Wright scored again in penetration, as Massey rested on the bench. Lazaros Agadakos grabbed a loose ball and put it in, which caused Cibona to call timeout at 30-36 to find a way to beat the guests' alternative defenses. Kalaitzis stepped up with a coast-to-coast layup, while Tsaldaris buried a corner triple that made it an 11-point game, 30-41, after a 0-9 run. Ayuso followed free throws with his third triple and even when Terry silenced the crowd with an outstanding dunk, a fast break layup by Warren got Cibona within 37-44. Hoskin scored in the paint only to see Massey follow a mid-range jumper with a fast break dunk for a 41-48 Aris edge at halftime.
Zoric buried a baseline jumper immediately after the break and Warren buried a triple from the corner to get Cibona back in the game, 46-48. Massey silenced the crowd with a driving basket before Tsaldaris fired one in from downtown to give Aris some fresh air at 46-53. Cibona did not keep its momentum going as a red-hot Tsaldaris made free throws to cap a 0-7 run. Ayuso stepped up again with a driving basket, but he didn't find much help around, as Aris kept dominating the game with outstanding defense. Wright collected a steal and turned in a three-point play to restore a double-digit Aris margin, 48-58. Filip Kruslin came off the bench and hit free throws, Hoskin soon added a jumper and Warren shined with a put-back layup to cause Aris to call timeout at 54-58. Ayuso made more foul shots while Warren caped a 10-0 Cibona run with a fast break layup to get the hosts back in the game, 58-58. Terry took over with a big triple from the left wing, which Massey followed with a fast break drunk to restore a 58-63 Aris edge. Warren shined with a driving layup, but Terry sank a corner triple. Free throws by Warren and Wright fixed the score at 62-68 after 30 minutes.
Massey stepped up with a big three-point play early in the fourth quarter, as Cibona struggled to score when it mattered. Massey paced Aris with a power move in the low post that helped Aris restore a double-digit lead, 62-73, as Cibona called a much-needed timeout. The hosts tried to speed up their offense and a red-hot Warren buried a three-pointer, as Cibona finally managed to improve its defense. Terry recorded a huge block on Barisa Krasic, but once again Warren struck from downtown to give Cibona some hope. Ayuso capped an 8-0 run with a floating jumper that saw Aris call timeout at 70-73. Wright picked up a loose ball and turned it into a critical jumper for a 70-75 Aris lead with three minutes to go. Aris kept powering the boards for second-chance options, as a big offensive rebound by Massey helped Mottola to get a game-deciding layup. A big triple by Tsaldaris sealed the outcome, 70-80, with less than two minutes to go, as Aris returned to Thessaloniki with a very valuable road win.
Thursday, January 3, 2008