PAOK Thessaloníki handed Crvena Zvezda its first defeat of the season with a hard-fought 81-85 win Tuesday at Pionir Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. PAOK didn't have the answer for ULEB Cup-leading scorer Milan Gurovic, who drew 12 fouls and finished with 27 points, but the visitors had their own hot hand in Jason Parker, who scored 23 to lead the visiting side to victory. PAOK improved to 4-2, moving within one game of Group D leader Crvena Zvezda, which fell to 5-1. The game came down to the wire and was tied at 81-81 with one minute to go, but Nikos Kouvelas and Dimitrios Verginis made two free throws each for PAOK and Igor Milosevic missed on the other side for Crvena Zvezda as the club's perfect record was destroyed. PAOK, which was short-handed without the injured Vlado Scepanovic and Ivan Tomas, got 19 from Darius Washington and 15 from Ioannis Kalampokis. Pero Antic had 17 points in 19 minutes for Crvena Zvezda before fouling out, while Antonio Burks added 16 points and 6 assists and Billy Thomas scored 11. The start of the game was delayed by nearly 30 minutes due to pregame disturbances between the fans, resulting from the colors of the PAOK uniform.
Washington and Kalampokis hit long-distance shots to help PAOK start strong . Drago Pasalic fired in another bomb to give PAOK a 4-10 lead. The visitors controlled the boards, and were looking to pull away, but Antic got hot and scored 13 points to keep Crvena Zvezda close at 25-27 after 10 minutes. However Antic committed his third personal in the first minute of second period and Parker hit a bomb to push PAOK 7 points clear. Parker and Washington continued to score as the visitors increased the lead to 29-39 midway through the second period. Petar Popovic went to the bench with his third personal, leaving Crvena Zvezda exposed inside. But Gurovic scored the hosts' first triple of the night, sparking an 11-1 run as Crvena Zvezda cut the lead to 44-45 at the last second of the first half.
Crvena Zvezda tied the game at 51-51 at the beginning of the second half. Blagota Sekulic kept PAOK in the game with 8 points as Kalampokis reestablishted the lead with a bomb. Thomas and Gurovic hit back-to-back triples to give Crvena Zvezda its first lead, 59-57, but Antic's next foul had him on the bench again and PAOK tied the score. The teams traded baskets for the next 5 minutes as Paok led 64-65 after 30 minutes. The final period started with three from Kalampokis and a fifth personal for Antic. PAOK was on top 69-70 with 5 minutes left when Kalampokis scored. Washington fired in a crucial bomb that put the visitors up 6. Gurovic answered with 5 straight points and teams were tied 81-81 with one minute to go. Kouvelas scored two from the line and Milosevic missed on the other side. Verginis scored two free throws for PAOK, sealing the scoring as the visitors held on for the 81-85 win, handing Crvena Zvezda its first loss.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006