Maccabi Tel Aviv reaffirmed its leadership of Group B for the long haul by beating Montepaschi 86-90 on the road Thursday night to become the first road winner in Siena this season. Maccabi improved to 7-2 in Group B, two wins better than the four teams tied for second place at 5-4: Montepaschi, Winterthur FCB, Scavolini and Zalgiris. Maccabi's victory broke Montepaschi's 20-game home winning streak between the Euroleague and Italian League. Anthony Parker led the winners with 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 9 rebounds. Saras Jasikevicius added 16 points while Deon Thomas and Maceo Baston had 13 points apiece for Maccabi, which made 28 of 31 free throws. David Vanterpool and Carlton Myers came off the bench to lead Montepaschi with 14 points apiece. Vrbica Stefanov added 13, Bootsy Thornton 12 and Giacomo Galanda 10. Siena trailed 62-74 midway through the final period, but 4 consecutive three-pointers by Myers brought his team within 83-84 before Maccabi sealed the win from the free throw line.
The game opened spectacularly, with Vujcic celebrating his return from injury by passing a rainbow alley-oop pass that Baston closed the play with a dunk. Baston dunked again on the next possession as Maccabi served notice of its arrival. Montepaschi got a basket but sufferend enough turnovers that by the time Parker checked in with another dunk, the visitors were up 2-7. Show time continued with Roberto Chiacig for Montepaschi and Parker adding yet more dunks. Parker scored 5 points in a row on a mid-range jumper and another from the arc, making it look easy as Maccabi blasted away to a 6-20 advantage. The guests could do no wrong as Jasikevicius scored from downtown, just before Vanterpool tried waking the hosts with a powerful drive to the hope. Davide Lamma came off the bench with the triple to bring Montepaschi within 15-25. Consecutive fastbreaks by Vanterpool, Michalis Kakiouzis and Thornton followed to make it 21-25, but Baston added free throws and Tal Burstein a jumper for a 21-29 Maccabi lead after 10 minutes..
Baston reached double figures with a baby hook shot earl in the second quarter, but big man Efthimios Rentzias came on for 4 points and Stefanov added 3 free throws to pull Montepaschi within 28-31. Rentzias drew a flagrant foul from Nikola Vujcic and sank both free throws, then on the same possession Kakiouzis drilled a triple from the corner for Montepaschi's first lead, 33-31. Maccabi immediately reacted a Burstein jumper and layup by Yaniv Green, perfectly assisted by Parker, who then glided on air for another basket before Stefanov drilled a three-pointer. The game seemed to have found a narrow balance after two heavy runs, but Maccabi was still able to ride a sweet jumper by Parker and free throws by Gur Shelef to a 42-48 halftime lead.
Tough, physical defense marked the start of the second half, as Baston was called for an illegal block on Rentzias and Maccabi coach Pini Gershon got a technical foul. Vanterpool scored both free throws and Thornton drove the baseline to make it 50-52. Maccabi answered with Parker again. He scored 4 points in a row, including an alley-oop dunk passed by Jasikevicius. Parker's show continued as he scraped the roof of the arena to dunk a pass from Vujcic that made it 52-62. Maccabi's defense kept Montepaschi from the basket as the lead hit 52-66 on a basket by Vujcic. Giacomo Galanda scored from the arc to help Montepaschi but the last ball of the quarter went to Parker, who dropped a spectacular triple over Chiacig to make it 57-69 after 30 minutes.
Baston scored in the paint for Maccabi before fouling out early in the final quarter, while Galanda's 5 points took Montepaschi within 62-71. Maccabi seemed in control until Myers rose off the bench to hit back-to-back triples for the hosts. The first was answered by Jasikevicius, but Myers wasn't done. His third triple in little more than a minute raised the crowd to its feet, and when Stefanov added a fadeaway jumper, Montepaschi was within 74-76. Maccabi had incredible pressure on its next offensive play, but Deon Thomas worked the low post perfectly for a basket. Now, the aces took the ball in their hands. Myers scored free throws for the hosts, but Parker answered. The same pattern repeated with Vanterpool and Shelef, then Vanterpool and Jasikevicius, leaving Maccabi up 80-84 when Myers fired again from downtown . That shot landed, too, and it was 83-84. Again, Maccabi looked to Thomas, who converted 2 free throws heading into the final minute. Montepaschi's next 2 misses let Jasikevicius add free throws for insurance as did Parker before a final triple by Thornton for Montepaschi. By then, however, Maccabi's position atop Group B was secure.
Thursday, January 6, 2005