Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv regained some confidence with a 78-65 Group B home win over Lottomatica Roma on Thursday. Maccabi used a 14-0 second-quarter run to take control and withstood a late Dejan Bodiroga-led charge to win. Maccabi improved to 2-1 and shares second place with Cibona and Joventut. Roma fell to 1-2. Lior Eliyahu shined in the early going and Will Bynum took over as Maccabi built a 19-point lead in the third quarter. Bynum led Maccabi with 19 and Eliyahu added 18 on 8-of-9 shooting. Rodney Buford and Derrick Sharp came off the bench for 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Nikola Vujcic finished with 8 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. The legendary Dejan Bodiroga led Roma with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists after getting a standing ovation when introduced. Vlado Ilievski added 16 and Ognjen Askrabic 11 in defeat.
Maccabi won the tip and after drawing two fouls scored first on a Yotam Halperin jumper. Askrabic scored Roma's first point from the line. The hosts surged ahead on three Eliyahu baskets inside, assisted in turn by Vujcic, Bynum and Halperin to take a 12-6 lead. Ilievski and Bodiroga soon took control of the tempo and shook Maccabi's confidence with back-to-back triples that tied it, 12-12. Askrabic added a bucket inside to give Roma its first lead, 12-14, causing Maccabi coach Neven Spahija to call for timeout. Bynum fed Eliyahu to tie the game again, but Ilievski answered with a three-pointer and a fastbreak basket to put the visitors up by 5. Eliyahu missed twice from the line, but Alessandro Tonolli was off-target also on the other end, allowing Vujcic's hook to end the first period with his team down 16-19.
Roma continued to slow things down in the second, except for the rare fast break opportunity, which turned into a Tonolli slam. Little Derrick Sharp scored underneath after his first attempt was batted away, but the Maccabi attack continued to struggle in half-court sets. Bodiroga added a basket in the paint and Buford fired in a short jumper to keep his team within 3. By now, Maccabi's confidence was so low that even when transition opportunities presented themselves the team had trouble converting. But aside from a Loukas Mavrokefalidis basket, Lottomatica was also not in an offensive rhythm. Vujcic found a cutting Buford for a three-point play to tie the score at 25-25 midway through the period and then Eliyahu stepped up to return the momentum Maccabi's way. The first-year forward converted a pair of free throws and then took a steal to the hoop for a layup to put Tel Aviv up by 4 and cause Roma coach Jasmin Repesa to take a timeout. It had little affect as a Bynum three game Maccabi its biggest lead yet and Eliyahu capped a 14-0 run with a one-handed layup to make it 34-25. Ilievski got Roma back with a three and after a broken alley-oop attempt from Vujcic to Buford, Jacapo Giachetti added a pair of free throws to get Roma within 36-30 at halftime.
A supercharged Bynum came out for the second half ready to end things quickly. Bynum sniped a three on the first possession, and after a Buford one-hander, added another triple to cap a 9-0 spurt that gave Maccabi a 45-30 advantage. Bodiroga's jumper in the lane after three minutes followed by Mavrokefalidis's offensive rebound and basket showed signs of life from the visitors, but Bynum drilled another three to keep Tel Aviv in control. His next move was a penetration and dish to Buford for a triple that gave Maccabi its biggest lead yet, 53-34. But Bodiroga and co. weren't done yet. The former Euroleague MVP scored from outside, Askrabic fired in a three and then Bodiroga did the same as Roma trimmed the deficit to 11. But after Sharp stripped Bodiroga for an easy score and then drilled his first three of the night as the arena erupted. David Hawkins and Tonolli added points from the line that ended the period with Maccabi leading 58-46.
The fourth quarter opened with a fast pace that favored Maccabi, as Vujic and Sharp added to the hosts lead. When Vujcic fed Eliyahu for a short jumper in the lane, Maccabi was ahead by 18. Lottomatica picked up its defensive intensity, but short of one fast break basket for Bodiroga, all it got them was foul trouble. Even when all looked lost, Roma's superstar never quit, as Bodiroga out-wrestled the bigger Yaniv Green for an offensive rebound and drew a foul. His hustle inspired an Ilievski triple and then Askrabic rattled one in off the glass to bring Roma within 67-55. After a timeout, Bodiroga sank another jumper as did Mavrokefalidis as the fans faces began to turn. Sharp restored a double-digit lead from the line and Bodiroga's next attempt was off as the tide started to turn back Tel Aviv's way. Halperin threw Eliyahu a perfect pass for a two-handed alley-oop slam and Buford scored another bucket as the hosts wrapped up the win.
Thursday, November 9, 2006