Maccabi Electra got the first win of a new Pini Gershon era and solidified its standing in Group A the hard way on Thursday, stopping Cibona's second-half rally to win 88-83 at home in Tel Aviv. Maccabi evened its record at 3-3 while dropping Cibona to 4-2 and out of its first-place tie with Olympiacos. After losing all of a 12-point second-half lead as Cibona made a 1-15 run to bridge the last two quarters, Maccabi used a stellar show by Lior Eliyahu to stave off the visitors. Eliyahu finished with 24 points, 17 rebounds and 6 assists as he fueled Maccabi's big early leads and returned to back-to-back layups after Cibona had gone ahead 77-78 with under 4 minutes left. Tied at 81-81 in the final minute, Carlos Arroyo drove for Maccabi's last go-ahead basket. Marcus Brown followed Eliyahu in the scoring column with 19 points, while D'or Fischer added 18, Tal Burstein and Arroyo 12 each. Vedran Vukusic scored 18 for Cibona, Davor Kus and Niksa Prkacin 15 each, and Earl Calloway 12.
Kus blasted a triple on a second-chance possession for Cibona's first lead at 1-3. Eliyahu fed Fischer for a reverse-plus-free throw as Maccabi snatched the lead. Brown took over then with a long jumper and slashing layup while also drawing 3 fouls on Cibona and hitting free throws to make it 9-3. Cibona recovered with 4 points on a pair of runs to the basket by Vukusic, but couldn't make anything else work offensively as Arroyo's three-pointer supplied the game's first double-digit lead, 17-7. After a Cibona timeout, Rawle Marshall scored on a bank shot, what would be his only points of the night, but Eliyahu matched him at the rim. Vukusic cut the difference with a triple at 19-12, but then fouled Eliyahu while he was scoring a one-handed flip, good for a three-point play. Luksa Andric drove strong twice, hitting a free throw with the second basket to pull Cibona within 24-17. Arroyo's next triple and a nice finger-rolled layup preserved a 29-19 Maccabi lead after 10 minutes.
Eliyahu continued to pace the hosts in the second quarter with a trio of early baskets, the last of them a tip-in, before he stole and fed an alley-oop dunk pass to Fischer for Maccabi's biggest advantage yet, 37-23. A rolled-in triple by Callaway fed Cibona's comeback hopes, however. Even though Eliyahu looked unstoppable while assisting Casspi's backdoor layup and spinning to drop his own shot, Holman returned for Cibona to score inside and Vukusic answered from downtown at 39-31. After Rozic hit free throws at 41-33 and Arroyo went off with his third foul, Vukusic ended an exchange of turnovers by racing for a fastbreak at 41-35. Maccabi head coach Pini Gershon needed a timeout now, and went back to Eliyahu for a basket, but Robert Troha matched for Cibona. Eliyahu rocked the rim with a baseline dunk, but Vukusic had the last word of the half, beating the shot-clock buzzer with 2.4 seconds left to pull Cibona within 45-42 at the break.
Maccabi came out smoking from the lockers as Brown drove for a basket and fed Fischer for another as the hosts marched ahead 51-44. Eliyahu hit a pair of intentional foul shots to start a possession that Burstien ended with a triple from up top for a new double-digit lead, 56-44. Kus answered from downtown but Burstein got three more the hard way. Kus was fired up, however, and blasted another. When Jared Holman made free throws off an offensive rebound and Calloway went coast-to-coast, Cibona was back within 59-54. The points kept falling however, as Arroyo popped from short while Burstein and Eliyahu made fastbreak layups at 65-56. Brown soon nailed a long-distance jumper to make it 68-58, but Cibona sent Marin Rozic and Vukusic to the hoop to make it 68-62. Prkacin featherd in the next shot and then passed out to Calloway for a huge triple that silenced the Tel Aviv crowd with a 69-67 scoreboard after 30 minutes.
Cibona's rally continued as Prkacin, Troha and Rozic, with floating one-hander, all got to the basket for layups that let the visitors burst ahead 69-73 to start the final quarter. Cibona's zone had stymied Maccabi for minutes, but the visitors' 1-15 run ended when Arroyo found Fischer cutting for the basket-plus-free throw to make it 72-73. Maccabi pulled off a big defensive stop now and at the other end, Brown blasted a triple for a new lead, 75-74. Brown then stole an errant pass and went the other way for a spinning layup at 77-74. Cibona took a timeout and Prkacin went back inside to score. When Arroyo missed his second straight triple try, Prkacin hooked over Fisher for a new Cibona lead, 77-78, with under 4 minutes left. Eliyahu returned with a pretty layup to retake the lead, then added a similar one-hander to make it 81-78 as the next-to-last minute started. Cibona went right back to Prkacin, and not only did his hook fall this time, but he was fouled and dropped the free throw for an 81-81 tie. A big offensive rebound by Fischer gave Arroyo a second-chance drive for the go-head layup, and after Kus missed from deep, Eliyahu got the rebound and was fouled. His 1 of 2 made it 84-81 with 22 seconds left. Kus went to the line next, making his 2 of 2, whereupon Cibona fouled Brown, who buried his pair with 13.4 seconds left for an 86-83 Maccabi edge. Calloway tried to tie it for Cibona, but missed, letting Burstein ice the victory at the foul line.
Thursday, December 4, 2008