Maccabi Tel Aviv virtually put itself in the Top 16 and moved a step closer to clinching first place in Group B when it downed visiting Adecco Asvel 89-69 on Thursday. Maccabi raised its record to 8-2, two victories ahead of its nearest competitor with four regular season dates remaining. Asvel fell to 2-8 and remains last in the group. The winners established double-digit leads early but had to look over its shoulder at times for Asvel, which mounted a couple short rallies despite center Huseyin Besok suffering early foul trouble in his return to Tel Aviv. Nikola Vujcic and Anthony Parker led the winners with 17 points each, while Maceo Baston added 13. Sarunas Jasikevicius had 7 of Maccabi's 21 assists. Herve Toure came off the bench to score 19 for Asvel, whose only other double-figure scorer was Danny Miller with 16 points.
Vujcic made his presence felt immediately as he sent an alley-oop to Baston and made 2 free throws on Maccabi's first two possessions. Danny Miller hit a jumper to put Asvel on the board, but Maccabi continued to pull away as Sarunas Jasikevicius dished assists to everyone. Parker, Vujcic and Tal Burstein responded with baskets for a 17-4 lead midway through the quarter. Asvel brought in Stephane Pelle for Besok, who had picked up a pair of quick fouls, and then Lyday and substitution dropped back-to-back three-pointers to spark a 3-10 run by the visitors that closed the gap to 23-16. But Asvel couldn't score in the last minute of the period despite going to the line and Parker nailed a triple to make it 30-16 after 30 minutes. Vujcic already had 11 points.
Maccabi looked to pull away at the start of the second quarter, too, but failed to convert 3 attempts from downtown while Lyday heated up and Toure scored on a stunning baseline move that seemed to give Asvel confidence. Toure then drilled a three-pointer and Harold Mrazek followed suit: Asvel was suddenly within 28-36. The momentum was about to shift, however. Sharp then hit his first triple of the evening and Vujcic scored a three-point play from an offensive rebound to take Maccabi's lead back to double figures. Nestoras Kommatos then jumped off the bench and scored the next 6 points to help the hosts enjoy a 47-33 halftime advantage.
Maccabi came out in the second half looking to put on a show for the fans. On the opening play, Jasikevicius sent Parker for an alley-oop dunk. Two more slams from Baston followed, all in the first 90 seconds. Jasikevicius then found Vujcic inside as the lead passed the 20-point mark. It took nearly 5 minutes before Asvel made its second basket of the quarter, and by that time the difference was 58-37. With most of Maccabi's starters resting, Miller started and ended a 1-10 Asvel run with triples, but when Parker zipped a pass to a cutting Gur Shelef, the crowd reawakened. After Toure scored on the offensive boards, Parker made free throws that closed the quarter at 66-51.
While Jasikevicius went fishing for his first basket of the night, Besok showed his familiarity with the Nokia Arena hoops by dropping a pair of baskets and Miller driller another triple to let Asvel close within 58-68. But Parker was there again with an acrobatic drive to the paint for a basket-plus-free throw and then found Deon Thomas for an open jumper to keep Maccabi comfortably ahead. Miller sniped in yet another triple, he alone seemed to believe Asvel might make a late comeback. That being the case, the final minutes ticked away dutifully as Maccabi coasted to another victory.
Thursday, January 13, 2005