AEK gave itself still more chances to make the playoff quarterfinals when it took sole possession of the Group G lead with a solid 81-70 victory on Thursday in Athens over visiting Prokom Trefl Sopot in Athens. But even though AEK is now 4-1 and alone in first place in Group G, it will need to win against Efes Pilsen (3-2) in Istanbul next week, or hope that Benetton Treviso (3-2) loses against winless Prokom, in order to reach the quarterfinals. Otherwise, AEK will fall into a three-way tie in which it can only finish third due to tiebreakers. Quadre Lollis led the way for AEK with 21 points on 10-for-12 shooting and a team-high 7 rebounds. Nikos Hatzis added 15 for the winners, Nikos Zisis and Sandro Nicevic 10 each. Desmon Farmer led Prokom with 14 points, while Istvan Nemeth had 13, Alexander Radojevic 12 and Tomas Masiulis 10.
Excellent passing game resulted in AEK's first basket by Lollis, but the hosts came up empty on their next four possessions, either committing errors or shooting poorly. Prokom failed to take big advantage of that and just managed to tie the score. AEK took charge at 6-2, but Istvan Nemeth connected from behind the arc for Prokom to make it 6-5. His second triple soon tied it, 8-8, while Masiulis soon followed the leader with another triple that supplied Prokom's first lead, 11-14. AEK soon answered back with its own pair of shots from behind the three-point line, from Hatzis and Bailey, to regain the lead 17-14. Despite poor free throw shooting, Masiulis and made a good pivot move to bring the visitors in front again 17-19, but Pero Antic nailed a triple to give the lead back to AEK, 20-19, at the end of the first quarter.
Zisis opened fire with a triple to start the second quarter, giving AEK its last 12 points from behind the arc. Radojevic was hurting the hosts in the paint, however, while Farmer hit a jumper to give Prokom a new lead, 23-24. AEK was risking trouble with 13 fouls called on its players already, as compared to 4 for Prokom. Mahailis Pelekanos came in from the AEK bench to pop in a triple and make it 28-27 for his team, but soon Farmer finished a fastbreak to give Prokom the lead back. Andreas Glyniadakis proved a spark for AEK after coming in to control the inside defensively and also connect with the basket. Another reserve, Davor Kus chipped in a triple to put AEK in charge 33-29. Lollis and Hatzis found baskets to increase AEK streak to 9-0 and its lead to 37-29. Farmer stepped up and connected for Prokom, but so did Lollis to help AEK close the first half in front by 43-34.
Farmer started the second as hot as he closed the first half, exploding for 5 points in a row. But, AEK was not hurt as it used a second triple from Zisis - and the team's seventh in 11 attempts - to stay up 48-39. Masiulis scored a basket-plus-free throw and Nemeth nailed his third triple in the match before a layup Antic set the score at 50-45. Antic then fouled out, however, after 25 minutes played. An easy basket from Lollis took the AEK lead to double-digits at 56-46. His basket-plus-free throw gave Lollis 7 consecutive points and the difference continued to grow up as Bailey nailed a triple and Sotiris Nikolaidis an open jumper as the third quarter ended 66-53 in favour of the hosts.
The fourth quarter began with 2 scoreless minutes until Giannis Bouroussis stole and fed Nicevic a fastbreak layup that made it 68-53. Prokom struggled to set up its offense, but AEK also failed to score. Radojevic broke the silence for Prokom after 3 minutes with a basket-plus-free throw. Filip Dylewicz added 4 points in a row to cut the margin to 10 points at 70-60, with 5 minutes to go. Nemeth nailed a triple to make it 72-63 and Prokom changed to zone defense, but Hatzis made a jumper and a three-pointer to secure a 77-63 AEK advantage that made no doubt about the eventual outcome. AEK would have to plan on one more win, however, to try to reach its quarterfinal dream.
Thursday, March 24, 2005