Cibona moved into a three-way tie for second place in Group B with an 87-82 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Drazen Petrovic Arena in Zagreb, Croatia, on Thursday night. The game wasn't as close as the score would indicate, as Cibona took control early and didn't let Maccabi back until the closing minutes, when the outcome was already certain. Brent Wright led five Cibona scorers in double figures with 22 as the Croatian champs improved to 3-2. Maccabi, which was led by Croatian star center Nikola Vujcic, dropped to 3-2. The two teams are joined by Partizan Belgrade in second place behind group leader Panathinaikos. Wright scored 10 points in the first quarter to carry Cibona, Chris Warren came off the bench for 13 in the second quarter as the hosts took a 42-31 halftime advantage. Luksa Andric scored 7 straight in the third as Cibona built a 20-point advantage and Jamal McCullough stepped up down the stretch to guarantee the victory. Wright finished with 22 points, Warren had 16, Andric 13, McCullough 12 and Marin Rozic 11. Lior Eliyahu and Derrick Sharp led Maccabi with 15 each, Jamie Arnold added 13 and Vujcic and Simas Jasaitas had 12 each.
Maccabi won the opening tip and the ball went straight to Eliyahu, who slammed the game's first points. Cibona came right back with Wright inside and then went ahead via Marton Bader free throws. Wright added a jumper and then scored on the offensive glass to give Cibona an 8-3 lead. Maccabi responded with Vujcic, who tipped in one basket and used a clever up-and-under move in the paint to help Maccabi go up 12-13. Rozic blew past Arnold on the baseline for two more points and after a pair of Will Bynum free throws, Rozic returned the lead to the hosts once again. Tel Aviv added another two via Arnold from the line before Wright's 10th point ended the period with Cibona ahead 20-19.
Wright scored in transition to keep the Cibona's momentum intact and Warren, fresh off the bench, drilled a triple, prompting Maccabi coach Neven Spahija to call timeout. Maccabi clawed its way back through Arnold, who scored from the line and then on the offensive glass. But Cibona had the eye of the tiger and was ready to pounce as soon as Vujcic took a breather. Back-to-back three-pointers from Warren and Barisa Krasic were followed by a Warren fastbreak dunk to give the hosts their first double-digit lead. Sharp sniped in Maccabi's first three of the night, but Cibona remained in control. Andric quickly put his team up again and despite a pretty Vujcic-to-Eliyahu alley-oop slam, which even the home crowd applauded, the lead would reach new heights just before halftime as Warren netted his third three in three tries, giving him 13 second-period points and Cibona a 42-31 halftime advantage.
Maccabi came out for the second half sporting a three-guard lineup with Bynum, Sharp and Yotam Halperin, but the change had little impact as the visitors shots simple weren't falling. Wright's first three-pointer of the season put Cibona up 45-33. Maccabi tried the long ball with some success, as Vujcic and Sharp hit threes, but Cibona continued to score on every possession. Andric got the hot hand, as the 2.10 player drilled three jumpers from the perimeter and added a free throw for a 58-39 Cibona lead. Vujcic scored from the line, but Cibona matched every point. Wright's next triple put Cibona up 20 and Krasic's penetration gave the hosts their biggest lead, 67-46. Jasaitas got Maccabi within 69-51 with a three to end the third period.
Jamal McCullough put Cibona back up by 20 on the first play of the fourth quarter, as Maccabi appeared to lose belief in its ability to comeback. Selfish play resulted in poor shots and turnovers, while Cibona stuck to its winning gameplan to remain comfortably ahead. With Bynum, Arnold and Vujcic on the bench, Eliyahu and Yaniv Green led a late 0-10 charge, carrying Maccabi within 75-66 with three minutes to go. But a long Andric jumper followed by Eliyahu traveling took the wins out of Tel Aviv's sails. McCullough wisely drained the clock on every Cibona possession, which allowed the hosts to remain in control even when Sharp's triple made it 79-72 and then Warren ended thoughts of any late drama with a three for his first points of the second half. Maccabi continued to press and got within 3, but the outcome was never in real jeopardy as McCullough captained the Cibona ship to an impressive win.
Thursday, November 23, 2006