Lottomatica Roma needed overtime to get past Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv 88-81 on Thursday night at the PalaLottomatica in the Italian capital. Roma won back-to-back games for the first time this season, dramatically improving its chances of reaching the Top 16. Roma increased its record to 4-6, joining Cibona, Partizan and Unicaja in a four-way tie for fourth place in Group B. Maccabi fell to 6-4, sharing second place with Joventut Badalona, which it meets next Thursday in Spain. Lottomatica point guard Mire Chatman went from zero to hero late in the game, first missing a game-winning three at the regulation buzzer, but then scoring his team's first 5 points of overtime as Roma shined in the extra period. Threes from David Hawkins and Dejan Bodiroga helped Roma take an 83-74 lead with two minutes remaining, essentially securing the result. Hawkins led Roma with 23 points and 4 steals, Chatman added 19, Bodiroga 16 and Ognjen Askrabic finish with 10 points. Maccabi center Nikola Vujcic led all scorers with a season-high 33 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Jamie Arnold added 13 before fouling out, while Lior Eliyahu had 9. Swingman Tal Burstein made his long-awaited return from a torn Achilles tendon, but finished without scoring. After Roma led for much of a closely played first half, the hosts reeled off 12 unanswered points for a 44-32 lead. But Vujcic and Arnold led Maccabi back, setting up an exciting finish.
Roma began in confident fashion as Chatman opened the scoring with an easy layup. But Maccabi reeled off 6 straight points with Vujcic scoring 4 on a pair of layups to seize a 2-6 advantage. Bodiroga ended the drought for the hosts with a layup after five minutes, before Chatman's three put Roma in front at 7-6. Maccabi replied with Will Bynum penetrating the lane and getting past Luca Garri to restore his team's lead. But Roma earned two trips to the charity stripe and sank all four opportunities to move 11-8 in front. Eliyahu's basket reduced the deficit, but Roma answered with a Loukas Mavrokefalides three-pointer for a 14-10 lead going into the second quarter.
Roma kept the pressure on with a Hawkins layup and a Garri three to start the second quarter. Maccabi stayed close with Vujcic pouring in 4 points and Eliyahu adding a three-point play to reduce the deficit to 19-17. The game was being played at a frantic pace, but Roma kept its nose in front and Hawkins, who scored 10 points in the quarter after being shut out in the first, did most of the damage. His shot from the beyond the arc gave his team a 30-23 lead midway though the period. Simas Jasaitis was there to tap in a missed three-pointer from Vujcic and the big Croatian center then went up strong after catching a nifty pass from Eliyahu, who was showing his full array of skills at the PalaLottomatica. Hawkins was a handful, and Bynum came down hard on him on a break-away and was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul. The hosts failed to make the most of it, adding just one point before Yotam Halperin tapped in Sharon Shason's miss to leave the team from Tel Aviv trailing 35-32 at the break.
Roma is known for slowing down opponents, but it picked up the tempo at the start of the third quarter and it paid off as they went on a 12-0 run. The points came from four different players and left them leading 44-32, before Derrick Sharp's two awoke Maccabi. The visitors closed to within 7, but Bodiroga's three made it 49-39 midway through the period. However coach Jasmin Repesa's side failed to pull away and a Arnold-driven Maccabi began to eat away at the deficit. Vujcic, who had been so strong in the opening half, stole the spotlight one minute before the end of the quarter with a free throw and a crucial three-pointer giving Maccabi a 51-52 lead. But Hawkins's layup just before the buzzer made sure Roma went into the final period with a 53-52 lead.
Maccabi looked ready to march to victory when Vujcic’s jumper was followed by Shason’s three. Those basket’s gave coach Neven Spahija’s men a 53-57 lead, but Roma refused to cave in. Chatman fed Askrabic down low and he powered up for a layup. Then Alex Righetti grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed three-pointer by Chatman and dished to Bodiroga, who was fouled by Arnold. His free throws tied the game at 57-57. Sharp nailed a three-pointer, but Roma came right back with Righetti and Askrabic's free throws to put the home side back in front. Askrabic then made a big defensive play, knocking the ball away from Sharp to set up a dunk for Chatman, leading to an explosion of cheers in the PalaLottomatica. Spahija called timeout and right on cue, Jasaitis checked back into the game and buried a three-pointer to level the score. After Hawkins missed from long range, Mavrokefalides fouled Vujcic, who made two at the line for a 63-65 Maccabi lead. After Askrabic and Arnold exchanged lay-ups, Alessandro Tonolli split two from the line before Arnold made two himself to make it 66-69 in favor of the Israeli champs. Bodiroga showed great fight and grabbed an offensive rebound off Hawkins miss and was fouled, making both to cut the deficit to one. The game remained tight and when Bynum made a layup, Maccabi led 72-70, but Hawkins tied it at the line and after Askarabic blocked Bynum’s shot, Roma had a chance to win. But after holding for one shot, Chatman missed a three-pointer and the game went to overtime.
Chatman made partial amends for his miss with a pair of free throws after being fouled by Burstein. Tonolli fouled Eliyahu, and the youngster hit just one of two at the line. Chatman then made a three-pointer, and after Vujcic could only make one of two at the line, Hawkins converted from long range to make it 80-74. After Shason missed from the beyond the arc, Bodiroga drained a three-pointer and pumped his fist in the air as it became clear what the outcome was. Vujcic replied with a three for never-say-die Maccabi, but Hawkins sank two free throws after being fouled by Bynum and Roma would end up sealing an 88-81 victory at the free throw line.
Thursday, January 4, 2007