Some lucky fans in Athens were treated to the second highest amount of points ever scored in a non-overtime Euroleague game, but were disappointed in the end when defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv hung on to beat host AEK 110-113 on Thursday in Group B. Maccabi remains undefeated at 5-0, while AEK dropped to 1-4. The combined 223 points were part of the fun for the local fans, but so were the 37 that AEK captain Nikos Hatzis poured in. It seemed the only shot that missed all night was a halfcourt attempt by a fan to win 15,000 euros. As it was, even with everyone scoring, Maccabi had too much firepower as Sarunas Jasikevicius nailed 22 points, Anthony Parker 21, Nikola Vujcic 17 before leaving the game injured, Derrick Sharp16 and Maceo Baston 14. After Hatzis, who rode 7 three-point striked to his career-high scoring night, AEK got 17 points off the bench from Pero Antic while Quadre Lollis and Tobey Bailey added 15 each.
Baston and Vujcic combined for all the visitors' points as Maccabi raced ahead 4-9. Bailey was the first player on either team to score from the arc, making it 7-9. Sharp popped of the bench early and hit a basket-plus-foul for a 7-12 Maccabi lead, but Hatzis started getting warm with his own triple for the hosts. Both teams found open shots easily, either playing pick-and-roll or shooting from outside. Through 6 minutes, the score climed to 16-19, still in favor of Maccabi. AEK coach Fotis Katsikaris ordered a zone defense, and AEK stole some balls, one leading to Bailey’s fastbreak dunk, which helped forge a 22-22 tie. Another triple by Hatzis gave AEK its first advantage, 27-24, but Sharp copied him and Yaniv Green added a layup for a 29-29 tie after an exciting 10 minutes..
Parker was being shadowed by Nikos Zisis but found the way to dish 4 assists in the second quarter, mainly to Gur Shelef and Nikola Vujcic, as Maccabi took charge again at 34-38. Hatzis kept firing behind the arc and his fourth triple cut the margin to its slightest, 37-38. Once again, however, Maccabi reacted well, with a seven-point run punctuated by Vujcic and Parker’s points for a high lead until then of 37-45. While Hatzis and Bailey were hot from the perimeter, drilling seven triples between them in the first half, Maccabi kept hurting AEK in the paint, especially the versatile Vujcic, and the first half ended 54-61 in favour of the reigning champs.
AEK tried to keep the score down after the break by focusing on perimeter defense, but Maccabi's own Greek player, Nestoras Kommato, nailed a three-pointer for a 60-66 gap. Whenever AEK managed to trim the difference, Maccabi rallied again. Jasikevicius and Parker shared the ball, making it difficult on the AEK guards to keep up, while on the inside, things were still working for the visitors. Tal Burstein, Green and Shelef made the extra contributions AEK didn't get from its bench, with exception of Pero Antic, who got hot in the paint. It took Hatzis exploding for 7 consecutive points to revive the hosts by making it a one-point-game 71-72. Parker proved his class by putting in a difficult off-balance drive and adding free throws to keep Maccabi up 76-81 on the way to a solid lead, 78-85, after 30 minutes.
The high-scoring rhythm was not about to change in the last quarter. Maccabi's margin reached double digits for the first time on Baston's free throws, 89-79, but a basket-plus-foul by Lollis and another Hatzis triple got AEK back within 85-89. Jasikevicius answered from downtown before AEK tried a zone again, which allowed the hosts to come within a single basket, at 90-92, with 5:23 to go. Parker ended his team's drought with a triple, Jasikevicius followed in kind, then Parker threw in another to let the champs breathe again at 94-105 with 2:21 to go, but Hatzis wasn't through. His last 2 triples got AEK within 108-110 with 9 seconds left, but Jasikevicius and Parker kept their nerve from the line to preserve another scoring marathon victory for the champs.
Thursday, December 2, 2004