Maccabi 5-0 after holding off Alba in Berlin
Undefeated Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv continued its winning run with a 76-78 win over Alba Berlin at o2 Arena in Germany. Alba gave the Israeli champs all they could handle – and had a last-second shot to tie or win the game. Devin Smith led Maccabi with 20 crucial points, which included 4 triples from 5 attempts, and team captain Guy Pnini added 11 for the winners. Nihad Djedovic had a big role in bringing Berlin back after a tough start and finished with 17 points plus 7 rebounds. Deon Thompson added 14 points and Zach Morley 10 in defeat. Maccabi seemed destined to romp after scoring the game’s first 12 points, but Alba never threw in the towel, came back and fought until the bitter end. Maccabi improved to 5-0 and remains alone atop Group B at the midway point in the regular season; Alba slipped to 2-3.
First quarter: Turnovers and turmoil for Alba as Maccabi takes the lead
Berlin won the tip-off, but showed some early nerves with a turnover pass from Dashaun Wood. It was an opening minute of fouls and misplaced passes, leading to the first basket of the game: Ricky Hickmann's recovery and break for a dunk. Alba again gave it away to Hickmann, and the Maccabi guard needed no invitation for an easy lay-up. Devin Smith's triple -the first jump shot of the game, put Maccabi 0-7 up off the back of its high pressure offense. Unsurprisingly, Alba coach Sasa Obradovic called a timeout to give instructions to his men. Vule Avdalovic's frustration with the 6 turnovers conceded by the host –previously the team with the least conceded in the entire Euroleague- in the opening four-and-a-half minutes led to an unsportsmanlike foul, and he had reason to be annoyed; Maccabi had gone 0-12 up before Alba had even got its motor running. It finally got on the board after six minutes of play, when Yassin Idbihi hit a jumper from mid-range. Brought on as a sub, Idbihi provided a boost for an Alba team struggling to keep up with Maccabi's high-tempo play. Morley's three from the top of the key brought things back to 10-16 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Alba tightens things up through impact sub Djedovic
Alba came out strong for the second quarter with a hustle steal from Wood. His basket, combined with a triple from Djedovic, put Alba back within a point of the lead. The problem for the home team was Maccabi’s instant responses; every time it scored, the visitors would head straight down the court to re-establish the advantage. Some speedy movement from Hickmann was capped off by one of the most spectacular layups of the first half, but he had an equal for pace wearing yellow: Djedovic. The Bosnian guard dragged Alba back to 25-26 halfway through the quarter, and finally it was Morley’s three-point skill that tied the game 30-30 for the briefest of moments. Maccabi prevented any consistent run of scoring and didn’t let up the tempo in search of a halftime lead. Devin Smith’s third triple from five attempts showed that Alba would have to watch out, wherever Maccabi had possession of the ball. The point was made clear when Pnini hit a three of his own. Djedovic’s personal come back concluded the first half, as he hit a crucial spin move layup to end things at 35-38. Alba had outscored Maccabi in the second quarter, but was still paying the price for its slow start.
Third quarter: Alba’s first lead… briefly
Avdalovic’s easy basket in the key and center Albert Miralles’ reverse putback turned the momentum in Alba’s favor, leading to the home side finally going ahead for the first time in the game from Deon Thompson’s free throws. With the score at 41-40, Alba cutting out the turnovers and Miralles growing in influence inside, Maccabi was now the team needing to react. Heiko Schaffartzik’s first points of the game –a triple that hit nothing but net – gave Berlin its biggest lead of the contest. Threes were becoming key to the game, and Devin Smith’s deadly accuracy from perimeter range helped to turn around a 5-point difference and get Maccabi back in front. Djedovic hit his second triple for Alba, and so the third quarter went into its final 90 seconds with the score at 50-52. Maccabi’s ability to claim turnovers returned for the end of the quarter, as did its lead: 52-56.
Fourth quarter: Right to the buzzer
Pnini started the fourth quarter as he ended the third, putting in shots for Maccabi. A more comfortable 8-point lead was the result, but Alba managed to bring it back to 5 with a Wood three. Otherwise fairly contained, Hickmann popped up with an important basket, even if he was to miss the bonus free throw. David Logan knocked down a three at the halfway mark of the final quarter, taking the score to 63-70 for his team. The answer to that came from the outstandingly accurate Wood, whose triple and alley-oop to Thompson showed that Alba wasn’t out of it yet. Shaffartzik decided it was time to break out the no-look passes, and served up a treat for Thompson for his seventh assist, Thompson’s 14th points of the game and Alba’s chance to snatch the victory with the game poised at 74-76. The final minute was as testy as expected, and Alba stayed within 2 through the quiet Vule Avdalovic, whose shot from right on the three-point line. Unable to foul with 31 seconds on the clock, the Game Of The Week was set for a grandstand finale. Avdalovic got the turnover, but Shaffartzik was forced into a long shot on the buzzer; it wasn’t to be. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv took the win, 76-78, remaining undefeated, though Alba Berlin showed that it can hang with the best.
Thursday, November 8, 2012