Milan Gurovic drilled six three-pointers on his way to 34 points as Crevena Zvezda Belgrade started the season with a convincing 68-78 win over PAOK on Tuesday night in Thessaloniki, Greece. The visitors led for much of the first half and held a 35-43 lead at the break. Gurovic broke PAOK's spirit with a third-quarter charge. Just as the hosts showed signs of a comeback and cut the gap to 42-46, Gurovic sniped three three-pointers in the span of a minute-and-a-half to push Crevena Zvezda to a 45-55 advantage. The lead grew to 14 before Crevena Zvezda sat back and coasted to the Group D victory. Gurovic was the star of the game with his 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc and perfect 12-of-12 from the line. Billy Thomas added 13 points and 3 steals and Pero Antic finished with 7 points and 11 rebounds for the winners. Ioannis Kalampokis led PAOk with 12, Vlado Scepanovic added 11 and Blagota Sekulic 9.
PAOK got the scoreboard rolling thanks to a three-point play by Scepanovic, but Thomas answered back with a triple for the guests. Crevena Zvezda's Nenad Misanovic dominated in the paint, but soon Dimitris Charitopoulos and Sekulic combined for a 7-2 spurt that gave PAOK a 13-9 lead. That's when Gurovic got started, converting a 4-point play to tie the game at 15-15 before Petar Popovic helped the visitors reclaim the lead, 17-18. Another Gurovic triple made it 17-21 after 10 minutes of play. The second quarter got underway with Andrew Panko scoring on a drive, which the guests offset with three free-throws by Gurovic. Drago Pasalic pulled PAOK within 22-24 with a smooth jumper, only to see Thomas and Antic extended Crvena Zvezda's lead to 22-28. Scepanovic unleashed a wild triple from downtown that brought the crowd to its feet and trimmed the deficit to 27-30, but then it was Gurovic again, who silenced the crowd with free throws. After Popovic and Panko exchanged baskets, Kalampokis drove to the basket and hit the resulting free throw as PAOK tried to claw its way back. But the red-hot Gurovic hit an open three-pointer, and then Igor Milosevic flashed his way to the basket en route to a 35-41 lead. Then, the young point guard did a great job defensively, as he first stole the ball and fed Thomas for an easy layup and followed that by drawing a charging foul to keep the guests firmly ahead, 35-43, at halftime.
Antic opened the second half with a point from the charity stripe. Charitopoulos followed with a layup, but on the other end Antic stepped up once again and made it 37-46. Kalampokis ignited a 5-0 spurt on a jumper, yet PAOK was clearly unable to contain Gurovic who nailed another triple. On the next possession, Jerome Allen scored his first basket – a three-pointer - but the Gurovic show continued as he dropped in back-to-back triples that put Crevena Zvezda ahead 45-55. PAOK coach Konstantinos Pilafidis called a timeout to regroup, but PAOK could not claw its way back. Popovic scored on a hook shot and triggered an 0-8 run that he capped with a skillful post move. PAOK responded only with when Gurovic took a breather and the lead slipped to 54-63 behind a free throw and a triple by Ivan Thomas. Lazaros Agadakos tried to ignite a comeback with a layup early in the fourth quarter, however Gurovic was unstoppable and with another pair of free throws, he reached the 30-point mark with eight minutes to go. Scepanovic was not willing to give up and scored on a gutsy drive to make it 58-65. But Gurovic hit two more free throws and showed who was in charge. Kalampokis drove to the basket and Charitopoulos drew the foul to close the gap to 62-67 with four minutes to go. Vuk Radivojevic split a pair of free throws to keep the Reds going, while on the other end Kalampokis failed to knock down an open triple that would have turned it into a three-point game. A basket by Steven Markovic silenced the crowd and restored a 62-71 advantage for the guests. Whereas PAOK kept misfiring from outside,, Thomas and Gurovic sealed the game’s fate and allowed the visitors to celebrate the road win.