Maccabi rallies late to down Prokom
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv scored a 73-89 road win over Asseco Prokom Gdynia on Thursday night, but the scoreline tells a different story to what actually occurred for three quarters of the contest. Plucky Prokom –already eliminated from Top 16 contention – led from the middle of the opening quarter until the final half of the fourth quarter, before a breakdown for the Polish champs ended its chances of a home victory. The key was that fourth quarter, in which Prokom scored just 8 points to Maccabi’s 27. The visitors were only kept in the game by some timely baskets from guard Ricky Hickman, who finished with 20 points. Lior Eliyahu added 16 points and 5 assists, Yogev Ohayon netted 14, David Logan scored 12 against his former team and Shawn James finished with 10 for the Israeli champs, who improved to 7-2 and can wrap up first place in Group B by beating Alba Berlin at home next week. Rasid Mahalbasic paced Prokom with 14 points, Jerel Blassingame and Mateusz Ponitka added 13 each and Lukasz Koszarek and Ryan Richards had 10 apiece as Prokom dropped to 1-8.
First quarter: Both teams pound the ball inside early
Hickman took little time to put in the first basket for Maccabi. Prokom tried to work a passing game inside, set up by Blassingame, but poor finishing early on meant Prokom had hardly anything to show for it. Maccabi, meanwhile, got to the free throw line and gradually pulled ahead through James and Hickman. Prokom had kept the score at 10-12 midway through the first quarter, but continuous rejections and missed shots prevented it from taking the advantage. A Richards dunk and hook shot finally put Prokom ahead, as Maccabi struggled to find its groove from open play. Prokom continued to work from the low post, risking playing a predictable style that Maccabi could adapt to and shut out. Players like Adam Hrycaniuk kept putting points up inside the paint, although the percentages were uninspiring and with neither side even attempting a shot from beyond the perimeter, an inside-heavy first quarter ended 19-15.
Second quarter: Prokom springs a surprise
Prokom made it a 6-point game as soon as the second quarter started, as Mahalbasic sank his third shot of the night. Maccabi's Devin Smith opened up the account from outside with the first three-pointer of the game, in a key moment of the first half that cut the gap to 22-20. Once Koszarek hit a jumper from the top of the key, Maccabi coach David Blatt had seen enough and called a timeout. Prokom's mixed defense, varying between man-to-man, zone and half court, was proving difficult to break down. Prokom pulled out an 8-point lead when Blassingame hit his first triple of the contest, matched by Maccabi's Ohayon and then responded to by Blassingame himself with an audacious perimeter shot as an out-of-sorts Maccabi went into the break at Ergo Arena trailing 42-35.
Third quarter: Hosts hold on tight
Five unanswered points, begun by Ohayon's second three-pointer of the night, brought Maccabi within touching distance in the first minute of the second half. Blassingame put Prokom back at arm's reach with his own triple, and Ponitka sent in one of his own to take the score to 51-42. Hickman's shots from outside and from the free throw line kept the visiting side in the game, but only just. Prokom matched each Maccabi triple with one of its own. The first of the night for Koszarek was answered by David Logan's own slick perimeter shot. Still ahead, Prokom's second win of the Euroleague season was within grasp going into the fourth quarter, as it led 65-60.
Fourth quarter: Maccabi turns the game on its head
James hit a key hook shot at the start of the final quarter that brought Maccabi within three, as the visitor threatened a comeback. Eliyahu continued the danger, as his floater made it 65-64. Logan added a layup that edged Maccabi in front for the first time since the opening quarter, 66-64. Logan then knocked down a three-pointer before Eliyahu's strip and dunk made it 65-71. It was not until nearly four minutes into the quarter that Prokom finally put points on the board, through Alex Acker. Again it was Blassingame from downtown who provided a response, but not even his fourth three-pointer could prevent Maccabi's roll. Logan's huge three and an easy post-up from James took the score up to 70-84. Prokom had thrown the game away, scoring just 8 points in the fourth quarter. Ponitka slammed home the final basket of the game, expressing the frustration felt by those at Ergo Arena on Thursday night as the game ended 73-89.
Thursday, December 6, 2012