Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv trounced Le Mans Sarthe Basket 91-99 for its fourth consecutive Euroleague win on Thursday night at Antares Arena in Le Mans, France. Maccabi led from start to finish to improve to 6-2 and remain in a three-way tie for first place in Group B. Next week the Israeli champs host Lietuvos Rytyas Vilnius in a top-of-the-table clash. Meanwhile Le Mans dropped to 0-8 and is the only winless team left in the competition. A superb first half from Nicolas Batum, which saw the teenage forward score a career-high 18 points, kept Le Mans in the picture. But David Bluthenthal scored 16 third-quarter points as Maccabi pulled away. The lead peaked at 22 early in the fourth quarter, but Raviv Limonad and Batum fueled a 15-2 Le Mans run to get within 4 in the final minute. However Maccabi awoke just in time to wrap up the win. Bluthenthal led Maccabi for the second straight week with 20 points and Marcus Fizer added a season-high 18. Terence Morris started for just the second time this season and responded with 16, Esteban Batista and Vonteego Cummings scored 10 points apiece and Yotam Halperin dished 7 assists. Batum finished with a career-high 24 points, Limonad had 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists - all season-highs - Phil Ricci added 17 and Sam Clancy posted 11 points and 8 rebounds.
Maccabi won the opening tip and went straight to the basket, with Batista converting a three-point play. Batista added a second basket in the paint before Clancy’s mid-range jumper got Le Mans on the board. Maccabi tried to push the pace and Morris’s three from the top of the key made it 2-10. Clancy fed Alain Koffi for a pretty basket and then Batum cut for a slam to keep Le Mans in the picture. Koffi cut the gap to 12-14 when he threw down an alley-oop from Limonad, causing Maccabi head coach Oded Kattash to take a timeout. Afterwards, David Bluthenthal missed from three and Batum tied the score in transition. The teams began trading baskets until Limonad capped the first period with a layup to put the hosts up 25-24.
Batum started the second period with a slam as the fast pace continued. Fizer heated up for the visitors, but Ricci was his equal in the paint on the other end. Derrick Sharp drilled a three-pointer to put Maccabi ahead 31-33, but Ricci immediately tied it on the offensive glass. Fizer stepped up with a basket-plus-foul and Alex Garcia put the visitors up 5 with a fast-break layup. Batum countered with a three-point play, giving him a career-high 16 points in just 16 minutes of action. Batum then fired a pass to Yannick Bokolo, but Maccabi answered with a Batista basket inside followed by a Garcia triple to give Maccabi an 8-point lead. Batum’s pretty offensive rebound and dunk cut the gap to 4 only for Morris to correct a Will Bynum airball to make it 44-50 at halftime.
After a scoreless opening minute to the second half, back-to-back Bluthenthal threes gave Maccabi its first double-digit lead. Clany showed force with an aggressive two-handed jam and after Bynum committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Clancy, Koffi scored inside as Le Mans got within 6 again. However Maccabi got fired up with 9 straight points as Bluthenthal hit a fade-away, Sharp followed with a steal and layup, Bynum converted a basket along with an unsportsmanlike foul and Fizer added another basket. Limonad tried to get Le Mans going, but Bluthenthal was red-hot and answered practically every home basket with a three. Cummings and Bluthenthal made it 79-60 after three periods.
Luka Bogdanovic’s free throws started the fourth quarter, but Halperin answered with a three-pointer and a basket in transition as Maccabi went ahead 62-84 to put its stamp on the outcome. Clancy converted a three-point play with an unsportsmanlike foul from Cummings and Batum drilled a three to get within 16, but a pair of Cummings baskets kept Maccabi firmly in control. The visitors seemed to tire down the stretch and Limonad and Batum helped Le Mans get within 85-95 with two-and-a-half minutes to go. A confused Maccabi attack led to a Le Mans fast break and Ricci slam, giving the hosts hope. Then Limonad capped a 13-2 charge as Maccabi used a timeout to regroup. A Halperin miss led to a Ricci basket and a 4-point deficit with 40 seconds to go. But Bynum fed Morris inside for a big basket and Sharp iced the game from the line allowing Maccabi to return home with a smile.
Thursday, December 13, 2007