Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv held on to defeat Cibona Zagreb 76-81 at the Drazen Petrovic Center in Croatian capital on Thursday to join a three-way tie for first place in Group B. The Israeli champs built a 20-point halftime lead after limiting Cibona to just 4 second-period points, but the hosts used a three-point shooting display highlighted by Tre Kelley to get back in the game. However a short Terence Morris jumper with 10.6 seconds remaining and Yotam Halperin free throws iced the win. It was Maccabi’s third straight win under new head coach Zvika Sherf as it improved to 9-3 in the standings. With the other group co-leaders, Lietuvos Rytas and Unicaja, set to face off next week, Maccabi’s path to one of the top spots in the group is now wide open. Meanwhile Cibona lost for the fifth time in six games to fall to 4-8 as its Top 16 hopes suffered a blow. Will Bynum led Maccabi with a season-high 21 points, Halperin added 13, Marcus Fizer and Esteban Batista had 12 apiece and Morris posted 11 points and 15 rebounds in 40 minutes on the floor. Sam Hoskin finished with a career-high 27 points plus 8 rebounds for Cibona, Kelley added 18, Chris Warren 12 and Luksa Andric scored 10 and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Croatian champs. Cibona looked strong in the opening minutes with Andric helping Hoskin out, took an 18-12 lead. But Sherf turned to his more defensive-minded second unit, featuring Bynum, Batista and Alex Garcia and outscored the hosts 6-32 in the next 12 minutes to take a 20-point halftime lead. But Cibona put on a three-point display in the third period, making 7 triples to get back in the game. Then Hoskin scored 7 in a 12-0 run that tied the score at 62-62. Kelley continued to dominate and eventually wrested the lead away from Maccabi, but it would be brief. The game went to the final seconds, but a big basket by Morris and a dropped pass by Andric in the closing seconds left the win with the visitors.
Maccabi controlled the opening tip and went straight inside to Fizer for the game’s first basket. Hoskin hit from outside to open the home team’s account. Hoskin then went inside to give Cibona the lead. David Bluthenthal scored on the offensive glass and then on the next trip from the line before a Fizer slam put Maccabi ahead. Hoskin sank a three-pointer – only his second of the seasons – and Vedran Princ scored in transition, but then Hoskin was whistled for his second foul, which had the effect of slowing down the game. Cibona turned to a zone defense, which BYnum punished by feeding Morris for a slam, but a Adric slam and a Warren tip-in made it 18-12. Batista sent Halperin for a fast break layup and Bynum beat the 24-second clock with a three-pointer to get back within 1, but Hoskin scored in the paint to end the first period with the hosts up 20-17.
After a scoreless first minute to the period, Bynum made an acrobatic layup in transition and a minute later Halperin nailed a triple to restore Maccabi’s lead as Cibona head coach Ivan Sumara called timeout. Still the momentum remained with the visitors as Morris banked in a one-hander and Batista added a bucket in the paint to cap a 2-14 charge for a 20-26 lead. Hoskin scored from the line to end a five-minute Cibona drought, but Bynum immediately answered with a long jumper and Garcia drilled a three to make it 22-31. Franko Kastropil came in and corrected a Larry Ayuso miss, but the momentum remained yellow as Batista also scored on the offensive glass and then took a steal in for a slam and a 24-36 lead, causing another Cibona timeout. Then Bynum stripped Damir Mulaomerovic for an easy basket as the visitors gained even more confidence. Omri Casspi and Batista continue to score at will inside, while on the other end Maccabi polished off one of its best defensive quarters in recent history for a 24-44 halftime lead.
A Kelley steal led to a Warren free throw as the fans tried to will their team back, but Maccabi slowed the pace down keep Cibona down. Still Warren persisted and drilled a triple over Garcia, but Fizer answered with a basket-plus-foul. A basket by Hoskin in the paint was followed by a Halperin steal and Bynum slam that even the local fans applauded. Warren kept plugging away with a three and Kelley soon joined him to cut the gap to 36-51, but Morris dished to Fizer for an easy hoop. Another Kelley three awoke the fans, but Morris matched him. The hosts were jacking up triples on nearly every possession now and soon Hoskin hit one for the first 2-three-pointer game of his Euroleague career. When Marin Rozic added one from downtown, Cibona was 6 of 9 from beyond the arc in the period and had cut the deficit to 49-59. After a Batista tip-in, Kelley beat the third-period buzzer with a halfcourt heave to get the hosts within 53-62 heading into the deciding period.
Andric got Cibona even closer with a basket on the offensive glass and then Hoskin hit a long jumper to make it a 5-point game. Hoskin added another jumper and then a triple to finish a 12-0 run that tied the game at 62-62. Kelley fouled Bynum, who was attempting a three and then made 3 free throws to end the Maccabi drought. Kelley made another wild three, but couldn’t wrest the lead away from Maccabi, which was getting most of its points from the line now. Hoskin made it 69-70, but Bynum came right back with a triple. After another Hoskin hoop inside, Kelley converted a three-point play with 2:25 that gave Cibona its first lead since the start of the second period, 74-73. But a Bynum drive followed by Halperin free throws put Maccabi back up by 3. Rozic scored and was fouled with 1:25 to go, but missed the free throw. However both teams missed on their next trips downcourt and Morris gave Maccabi a 76-79 lead with 10.6 seconds remaining. Andric lost the ball on a pivotal possession and then needing a foul, sent Halperin to the line, who iced the win with 2 big free throws.
Thursday, January 17, 2008