Unicaja spoiled Pini Gershon's return to the sidelines with a 73-80 road win over Maccabi Electra at Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena on Thursday night. Thomas Kelati scored 23 and Boniface NDong had some big baskets in the fourth quarter as Unicaja picked up its first road win of the season and improved to 3-2 in Group A. Meanwhile Maccabi lost at home for the first time and dropped to 2-3 with an important game against group leader Cibona looming next week. It was a first half of runs, which saw Unicaja build a 16-point lead before Maccabi reeled off 14 unanswered points to make it 40-44 at halftime. Omri Casspi came off the bench to give Maccabi the lead late in the third period, however NDong restored Unicaja’s 8 point lead early in the fourth and the hosts came up short in their comeback attempts. Carlos Jimenez added 15 points, 7 rebounds and some key defensive plays for the visitors, NDong finished with 11 points and Omar Cook scored 10 and dished 7 assists. Carlos Arroyo scored 14 and had 5 assists for Maccabi, which was doomed by its 17 turnovers. Marcus Brown added 13, Tal Burstein 12 and Lior Eliyahu had 11 in defeat.
Maccabi won the opening tip and went straight to Eliyahu for the game’s first basket. Jimenez answered at the other end before Jiri Welsch hit a jumper to put the visitors ahead. Derrick Sharp, making his first start of the season, scored in transition as the game picked up pace. Arroyo converted a three-point play only to see Robert Archibald score in the paint. Arroyo fed D’Or Fischer for a three-point play to make it 12-8, but Kelati scored and then a Cook triple gave Unicaja the lead. Kelati added a three to cap a 0-8 run that put Unicaja up 12-16. Eliyahu scored for Maccabi, but Cook hit from outside once more and soon Jimenez scored on the break to make it 14-22. Maccabi used a timeout after which Burstein sank a long jumper. Jimenez was fouled shooting a three and made the resulting free throws to restore an 8-point lead. Tre Simmons and Welsch traded threes as Unicaja took a 20-28 lead after 10 minutes.
Kelati made a long three to open the second period and Jimenez scored on the break as Unicaja took control. A pair of Kelati free throws capped a 0-10 run and gave the visitors a 20-35 lead. Maccabi broke Unicaja’s press and Burstein went in for a two-handed slam that got the crowd involved, however Joseph Gomis fired back with a three to push the lead to 16. The hosts increased their intensity and held Unicaja scoreless for several minutes, while a basket by Arroyo and a Brown triple cut the gap to 10. Maccabi kept the momentum going as Burstein scored, Brown hit a triple from the same spot as before and Eliyahu scored a basket-plus-foul in transition to complete a 14-0 comeback. Archibald ended a nearly four-minute long scoring drought for Unicaja with a free throw and then scored in the paint on the next trip downcourt. Arroyo brought Maccabi within 1 with his first three of the night, but Kelati pulled up for his third triple at the other end to make it 40-44 at halftime.
Both teams missed their first shots of the third period before Jimenez made a free throw. Fischer found Burstein for a layup, but Cook drilled a triple and Jimenez hit a jumper to make it 42-50. Maccabi stayed close with baskets from Eliyahu and Arroyo and despite a short jumper from Kelati, Fischer threw down an alley-oop and made free throws to get the hosts within 2. Brown bettered NDong free throws with a triple to make it 53-54. Casspi drove for his first basket to give Maccabi its first lead since the first quarter. NDong answered with a hook, but a Casspi triple ignited the crowd. The lead would switch hands a few more times before a Gomis free throw made it 61-62 at the end of the period.
Gomis out Unicaja up 4 with a three-pointer as Maccabi turned the ball over on its first three possessions of the fourth quarter. A pair of baskets by NDong – the second a three-point play – increased the visitors' advantage to 61-70, leading to a Maccabi timeout. Arroyo stepped up with a triple, but another NDong basket kept Unicaja in control. A Burstein three brought Maccabi within 5, but Kelati answered with another three. Maccabi fired back from downtown and the hosts’ defense locked Unicaja down, but Brown and Arroyo missed successive threes. Casspi cut the deficit to 72-75 with two-and-a-half minutes to go. Jimenez made 1 free throw and Sharp missed a three-point attempt with a minute to go. Kelati went to the line and made just 1, but so did Casspi as the clock became Maccabi’s enemy. Cook also made just 1 from the line with 37 seconds remaining, but Burstein turned the ball over and Welsch sank 2 from the line to sink Maccabi’s hopes.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008