Skipper Bologna knocked off another Group B giant on the road and took a decisive step towards the Top 16 as it handed Maccabi an 89-99 loss in front of a packed house at Nokia Arena. Matjaz Smodis and Milos Vujanic combined for 51 points, as Skipper boosted its record to 7-4 and bounced Maccabi, which fell to 8-3, from its long first-place tie with CSKA. Smodis got Skipper rolling and finished with 27 points. Vujanic added 24, Carlos Delfino 16 and Tomas Van den Spiegel had 12, while Gianmarco Pozzecco chipped in with 8 points and 10 assists for Skipper. Anthony Parker scored 24 for Maccabi before fouling out, while Sarunas Jasikevicius had 19, Nikola Vujcic 18 and David Bluthenthal 12. Skipper took a five-point edge at halfime and never trailed in the second half, as it knocked down 15 of 26 three-point attempts and limited Maccabi fowards Maceo Baston and Deon Thomas to just 2 points and 5 rebounds combined.
Vujanic got hot early on, hitting a runner and following it with a three-pointer to put Skipper up 11-4. Maccabi's only offensive weapon in the first few minutes was Vujcic, who answered with 4 straight points to keep Maccabi in the picture. Smodis added his own three, but then Parker swished a triple from the corner, and Jasikevicius pulled up on the break to drain another shot from the arc, tying the score at 14-14. Vujanic knocked in yet another triple, and Smodis followed suit before Parker woke the sell-out crowd at Nokia Arena with a dunk on Hanno Mottola, who nonetheless converted a shot inside to keep Skipper ahead 24-23 at the end of the first period.
Both teams made key subs early in the second period. Skipper brought in Spiegel and AJ Guyton for Mottola and Vujanic, while Maccabi sent Thomas and Derrick Sharp in for Baston and Tal Burstein. But the new blood turned the flow of the game into a comedy of errors, turnovers, missed shots, and fouls, as the two top-scoring teams in the Euroleague scored only 2 points each in the next 5 minutes. Skipper finally broke the deadlock with a fastbreak hoop and later a free throw from Erazem Lorbek, and could have jumped ahead thanks to Van Den Spiegel's dominant play in the offensive glass, but he struggled to convert his offensive rebounds and free throws into points. Meanwhile, Maccabi went back to the basics, feeding Vujcic inside to stay within one, 31-32. Smodis and Vujanic came back from the bench to drill a pair of three-pointers and give Skipper a 40-35 halftime lead.
Vujanic continued his hot streak at the start of the second half, sandwiching a pair of threes around a fine assist for a Van Den Spiegel dunk as the visitors silenced the crowd and took a 54-43 lead. However, Jasikevicius, outraged about an offensive foul called against Vujcic, stepped up on the offensive end and cut the deficit to eight, 48-56. Van Den Spiegel continued his dominant play around the basket but unlike the first half, he made his free throws to keep Bologna comfortably in the lead, and then Smodis hit his fourth three of the game to put Skipper up 13. Parker tried to single-handedly carry Tel Aviv back into the game, but Carlos Delfino was up to the challenge. The two traded baskets the end of the period when Jasikevicius nailed a three that brought Maccabi to within 61-70.
Still determined, Jasikevicius came out for the fourth as ready as ever, hitting a short jumper as Maccabi trimmed the score to just 66-71. But Delfino cut through the heart of the Israeli defense to nail a mid-range jumper as the 24-second clock drew to a close, which was like a dagger through the fans' hearts. Guyton followed with a three and Smodis added a jumper to bring the lead back to 12, 70-82. When Gianarco Pozzeco fed Smodis inside to make it 78-91 at the two-minute mark, the home fans started to head home. In the end, Maccabi desperately tried to at least get within seven, to match its win from Bologna for a potential tiebreaker, but even that proved impossible. Two Pozzeco free throws ended the game with Skipper victorious 89-99.
Thursday, January 29, 2004