Maccabi Elite built a big early lead and then held off Aris TT Bank’s late charge for an 85-70 win on Thursday night at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel. The victory saw the Israeli champs improve to 5-2 at the midway point of the regular season, joining Unicaja and Liteuvos Rytas for a three-way tie of first place in Group B. David Bluthenthal and Marcus Fizer scored all the points as Maccabi started the game with a 10-0 run and never looked back. The lead grew to 23 in the second period before the teams headed to the locker rooms at 50-30. Bracey Wright led Aris back in the third and the visitors cut the gap to 10, but in the fourth, Maccabi matched every Aris basket until the hosts pulled away once more to the delight of their fans. Bluthenthal scored a season-high 20 points and matched his career best with 8 rebounds to lead the winners. Terence Morris was also instrumental with 19 points and 9 boards, while Fizer finished with 12. Wright paced Aris with 19, Jeremiah Massey added 13 and Terrel Castle had 10.
After a scoreless opening minute, Bluthenthal got the hosts on the scoreboard first with a tip-in. Two baskets inside by Fizer, and a Bluthenthal jumper paved the way as Maccabi started the game 10-0. Aris head coach Gordon Herbert used an early timeout and benched his star player Massey. Reyshawn Terry finally got Aris in the books with a triple, but Fizer answered with a mid-range jumper. Hanno Mottola added an Aris basket, but the hosts were in complete control. Lazaros Agadakos’s long jumper made it 16-9 and he soon struck again to get the visitors within 5, but Fizer scored another bucket and Yotam Halperin hit a three as Maccabi went up 21-13. Wright scored his first point from the line before Lior Eliyahu fed Morris for a slam to end the period with the hosts up 23-14.
Vonteego Cummings opened the second period with a three and baskets by Morris and Bluthenthal made it 30-15. Massey finally made an impact on the game, drawing a foul and sinking 2 free throws, however Will Bynum fed Morris for a two-handed slam that brought the crows to its feet and another jumper from a red-hot Bluthenthal saw Aris use another timeout trailing 34-17. Aris came back with a Dimitrios Tsaldaris jumper, but Bluthenthal drilled another triple to give him a season-high of 15 points already with fewer than 15 minutes played. Massey fired in a jump shot and Mottola added a free throw, but Esteban Batista kept the hosts up and then fed Morris to put Maccabi up 21. Mottola and Morris traded baskets before Batista padded the lead. Wright heated up, using a runner and then a jumper to cut the deficit to 50-30 at halftime.
Halperin scored the first points of the second half before Massey scored a three-point play. Wright’s second-chance basket gave the visitors a little hope and after Fizer was whistled for a technical, Wright hit free throws and then scored on a reverse layup to cut the gap to 15, but Eliyahu reassured Maccabi with a baseline jumper. However Agadakos kept the pressure on and when Massey sent Wright for an uncontested fast-break layup, Aris closed to within 45-56. Morris scored inside, but Massey matched him as Aris dug in. Batista assisted on another Morris slam, however Castle bettered him with a three to bring Aris within 10. Bluthenthal hit a three for his first points of the second half before a Castle free throw ended the third quarter with Maccabi leading 65-53.
Mottola fought inside for a basket to keep Aris in the picture, bur Bluthenthal matched him at the other end. Mottola added a dunk only to see Morris score for Maccabi this time. Tsaldaris’s basket was equaled by Cummings and when Fizer scored inside and then caused a turnover that led to a Halperin layup, Maccabi’s lead was up to 76-59 with four minutes left and the outcome was clear. The Maccabi fans stood on their feet in the closing minutes, cheering every basket as Maccabi cruised to its biggest win of the season.
Thursday, December 6, 2007