Hollis Price drilled a clutch three-pointer with 6.7 seconds remaining to lift Lietuvos Rytas to an 82-87 win over Maccabi Elite in a Group B first place elimination game at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. The win keeps L. Rytas tied with fellow Thursday night winner Unicaja atop the group standings at 7-2. Meanwhile Maccabi, which dropped its first home game of the season, fell to 6-3 and is tied with Efes Pilsen for third place. Maccabi visits Efes after the winter break, while L. Rytas hosts Le Mans. The game was close from start to finish, featuring five lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. Maccabi led 80-79 after an Esteban Batista slam with two minutes to go, but Matt Nielsen answered and the Israeli champs would not lead again, as Price came through with big shots that Maccabi couldn’t match. Chuck Eidson led L. Rytas with a season-high 28 points, Price posted 19 points and 5 assists and Nielsen added 18 points and 7 rebounds. Marcus Fizer paced Maccabi with 15 points in 18 minutes, David Bluthenthal and Esteban Batista scored 14 points apiece, Yotam Halperin scored 10 and dished 9 assists and Vonteego Cummings added 10.
The game was aggressive from the opening tip, as defense prevailed early on. Price’s three-pointer represented the game’s first points some two-and-a-half minutes into the period. Esteban Batista answered at the other end to get Maccabi going. Nielsen became the weapon of choice for L. Rytas, scoring inside and then stepping out for a three to make it 4-8. But Esteban Batista made himself a factor with an assist to Terence Morris and then a steal that resulted in a Bluthenthal triple for Maccabi’s first lead. Maccabi remained on fire, with a Halperin three making it 14-10. Nielsen again answered for the visitors and Price made it a 1-point game with a free throw. Fizer came off the bench, drew a foul and sank 2 free throws, but Price tied the game at 20-20 with a three and Nielsen put L Rytas ahead from the line. Fizer drilled a triple from the corner and Will Bynum netted 2 free throws with 2 seconds to go to end the first period with Maccabi ahead 25-22.
Bluthenthal opened the second period with a triple and Alex Garcia added free throws to complete a 10-0 run as the hosts took off. Eidson answered from downtown and Price pulled up for a jumper to keep L. Rytas in the picture. Jared Jordan penetrated for a bucket to bring the visitors within 1 and after Fizer free throws, Nielsen kept the visitors close with a jumper. Cummings got on the board, but Eidson wiped away his points with a jumper. Kenan Bajramovic then tied it at 35-35 from the line. Esteban Batista restored the Maccabi lead, only for Eidson to match him from the line. Garcia committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Marijonas Petravicius, which resulted in 2 free throws and then an Eidson triple. Cummings fed Esteban Batista for a slam and Garcia hit a shot at the buzzer to bring Maccabi within 41-42 at halftime.
Halperin put the hosts back on top with a three from the corner at the start of the third period. Eidson tied the game with a pretty move on the baseline, but Bluthenthal struck from downtown and Garcia stole the ball and threw down a slam as Maccabi pulled away. Cummings drained a three to make it 52-44 and cause L. Rytas head coach Aleksandar Trifunovic to use a timeout. Eidson scored and Esteban Batista picked up his fourth foul on Petravicius as the visitors looked to get back. Petravicius and Bajramovic closed the gap and Eidson’s three got the visitors within 2. Fizer and Eidson traded buckets before Price hit from downtown to make it 60-59. Halperin’s free throws left the hosts up 64-61 heading into the fourth quarter.
Joao Paulo Batista’s tip in got things started for L. Rytas and the red-hot Eidson drilled a three to put the visitors back on top. Price added a basket making it 64-66 before Morris scored on the offensive glass. Morris banked one in on his next trip downcourt to tie the game at 68-68. Cummings drilled a clutch three for the hosts, but Nielsen tied it once more. Then Bluthenthal hit from long range, but Eidson kept his team just 1 back. Cummings hit from outside only for Eidson to tip in Price’s miss. Esteban Batista scored down low, but was matched by his namesake. J.P. Batista then scored again to put L. Rytas up 78-79. An Esteban Batista slam with two minutes to go lifted the crowd, but Nielsen matched him. Bluthenthal missed from downtown and Price instead added a huge three-pointer with 38 seconds left to put the visitors on top 80-84. Bynum cut inside for an easy basket and L. Rytas took a timeout. Price went inside, but met Morris who rejected his effort. But the ball went out of bounds and remained L. Rytas’s. The visitors went to Price again, who drained another massive three with 6.7 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Thursday, December 20, 2007