Union Olimpija provided the biggest upset so far in the Euroleague Regular Season by knocking off previously undefeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 93-81 in Group B at home in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Wednesday night. Cheered by a sellout crowd, Olimpija never lost the faith while coming back from 9 points behind in the third quarter to even its record at 3-3, good at least to tie for the third spot in Group B standings. Maccabi dropped to 5-1, but stayed in first place. Vladimer Boisa led the winners with 28 points, including 8 in a 14-3 run that bridged the last two quarters and turned the game in Olimpija's favor. Marino Bazdaric added 22 points and Saso Ozbolt 14 for Olimpija. For Maccabi, Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 19 points, Anthony Parker 18 and Yotam Halperin 10, while Maceo Baston posted a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Yaniv Green replaced injured starting center Nikola Vujcic in the Maccabi starting lineup. Jasikevicius followed Parker's mid-range jumper with a basket in penetration for a 2-4 Maccabi lead. Olimpija used long possessions to avoid Maccabi's fast-paced game. A tough jumper by Bocevski tied it 6-6, but Jasikevicius drilled a trademark stop-and-pop jumper, and Baston added a powerful dunk to boost Maccabi ahead 6-10. Olimpija struggled to score now, while Yotam Halperin stepped up with a three-point play which Parker followed with a four-meter shot for a 10-15 visitors' margin. Olimpija improved its defense late in the quarter, but only Boisa seemed to find the basket for the hosts. Then, however, Mance stepped up with a left-handed layup and added a big three to tie the game, 17-17, after 10 minutes.
Baston's dunk gave Maccabi a 17-19 edge to start the second quarter, but Ozbolt's first basket and Bocevski's free throw kept Olimpija close at 20-21. Maccabi tried improved its aggressiveness on defense and held Olimpija scoreless for more than 2 minutes, but Baston made only 1 of 4 free throws in that time. So when Boisa and Ozbolt slashed for layups and a 24-22 Olimpija lead, Maccabi called timeout and went to a short lineup, with Nestoras Kommatos playing power forward. Olimpija looked for Boisa and Dragisa Drobnjak in the middle, but free throws by Kommatos and Jasikevicius put Maccabi back in charge, 26-27, after 18 minutes. Bazdaric stepped up with an acrobatic layup, but Halperin fired from downtown and Baston added a powerful basket for a 30-32 Maccabi lead at the half.
Maccabi started the second half at full speed, with Baston and Gur Shelef making back-to-back layups for a 32-38 lead. Bazdaric fired back with a three-pointer, but nobody stopped Shelef near the basket, and Olimpija coach Saso Filipovski called timeout at 36-42. It didn't work, as Baston silenced the crowd with an outstanding dunk, and Jasikevicius added a fast break three-pointer to give Maccabi its biggest lead so far, 38-47. Bocevski came to the rescue with consecutive baskets, while Andres Rodriguez and Ozbolt made basket-plus-fouls to keep Olimpija in the game at 48-53. Maccabi now felt confident as the scoring pace increased. Parker scored off the glass, Deon Thomas added a layup and Jasikevicius free throws for a 53-59 Maccabi margin. However, a long two-pointer by Bazdaric ignited a 7-2 Olimpija run in which Boisa scored the other 5 points for a one-point game, 61-62, after 30 minutes.
The Olimpija run continued in the final quarter, which Bazdaric and Boisa opened with back-to-back three-pointers which gave the hosts a 67-62 lead and forced Maccabi coach Pini Gershon to call timeout. Baston dunked to wake Maccabi up, but it was not enough, as Olimpija played with great concentration in both ends of the floor. A layup by the very active Bazdaric meant a 69-64 lead. Derrick Sharp drilled a three-pointer for Maccabi, but Drobnjak and Ozbolt answered in the other end, while Boisa made a corner three and a floating jumper for a 78-70 Olimpija lead. Maccabi called timeout, and fans went wild in Tivoli. Parker stepped up with an alley-oop dunk, and added a triple from downtown to keep Maccabi in the game. However, Bazdaric responded with a basket in penetration before feeding Drobnjak with a layup. Parker carried on his one-man-show for Maccabi, but it wasn't enough. Even though Boisa left with five fouls to a standing ovation, Ozbolt drilled free throws and Rodriguez added a buzzer-beating layup to seal an incredible win, handing Maccabi its first loss of the season!
Thursday, December 9, 2004