Teemu Rannikko's runner with a second to go gave Union Olimpija a stunning 77-75 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Thursday night at Tivoli Arena in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Maccabi led by double figures in the first half and held a 32-42 halftime lead, but fantastic outside shooting led the Slovenian champs back. Rannikko and Manu Markoishvili starred in a 14-0 fourth quarter run that put Olimpija in control, but Maccabi fought back and Nikola Vujcic tied the game with a triple with 17 seconds remaining. The game looked destined for overtime, but Rannikko's heroics gave the fans what they wanted at the end of regulation. The win saw Olimpija improve to 4-9 in a game where three players made their debuts with the team. Maccabi dropped to 7-6 and missed a golden opportunity to seal up second place in Group B. The Israeli champs fell to 1-6 on the road this season. Domen Lorbek led Olimpija with 17, Rannikko added 16 and 4 assists, Markoishvili and Ivica Jurkovic scored 13 apiece, and Goran Jurak scored 12 and grabbed 6 rebounds. Captain Derrick Sharp paced Maccabi with 18, Vujcic finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, Lior Eliyahu added 12 and Simas Jasaitas tallied 9 points and 10 rebounds. The visitors, who were without the ill Will Bynum, cleaned up on the glass (17-37), but committed a dooming 18 turnovers. Olimpija went 12-for-29 (41.4%) from downtown – a big part of their big win.
Maccabi won the opening tip, but more than a minute went by before Vujcic scored the game's first points from the line. Olimpija came right back via a Lorbek triple as the offenses warmed up. Eliyahu was active for Maccabi with a pair of baskets and a free throw, before completing a three-point play for a 5-10 lead. Rannikko drilled a triple, but former teammate Yotam Halperin answered in form for the visitors. Vujcic then scored twice underneath, increasing the Maccabi lead to 8-17 and causing Olimpija to call timeout. Despite poor shooting by both teams, repeated offensive rebounds helped Maccabi take the lead to double figures. Lorbek made a fine penetration move and followed it with a jumper to show that Olimpija was fighting. Eliyahu went to the line once more and made one, but with Vujcic resting on the bench, the Maccabi offense stalled and Rannikko's second three was followed by Markoishvili to make it 18-20 after 10 minutes.
Rannikko spotted an open Hasan Rizvic for a dunk to tie the score early in the second period. But Rannikko soon committed his third foul and took a seat on the bench. Tal Burstein put Maccabi on top once more with a jumper, but this time Lorbek's triple made it 23-22 for Olimpija. The lead went back and forth a few times until Burstein was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul on Jurak, who tied the game at 27-27 from the line. Baskets by Eliyahu and Burstein hinted at some Maccabi momentum, but Sandi Cebular came right back with a triple. Free throws by Burstein were followed by Jamie Arnold's first basket to put Maccabi up 8. Rannikko picked up his fourth foul on the offensive end in the final minutes of the half and Halperin fed Arnold for a score as time expired to make it 32-42 at halftime.
Jurak's layup got things going in the second half. Rannikko and Jurkovic brought Olimpija within 6, but Vujcic went behind the back to Simas Jasaitas. Rannikko answered from downtown to make it 41-46, but Burstein's three kept Maccabi comfortably ahead. Jurkovic penetrated the Tel Aviv defense to make it 45-51 midway through the period. Sharp fired in a three after a Maccabi timeout, but a red-hot Jurkovic did the same. Markoishvili then blew past Burstein for a basket and foul and Jurkovic scored another basket to close the gap to 53-55. Maccabi used a second timeout, after which Arnold drew a foul and made a free throw. Markoishvili's long jumper cut the difference to 1 point, but he then committed his fourth foul on Arnold, who made two from the line. Abdul Mills made his Euroleague debut in Markoishvili's place, but little happened before the third quarter buzzer sounded with the visitors leading 56-58.
The fourth quarter got off to a slow start, before Sharp's runner nearly two minutes in put Maccabi up 4. Lorbek's triple gave the fans a rise, but Jurkovic then fouled Vujcic, giving the hosts four players with four fouls. But it had no effect as Jurak fired in another Olimpija three to give the hosts their first lead of the second half. But Olimpija was just getting started. Rannikko drilled another three, Markoishvili added a long jumper and then the team's 12th three of the night as Olimpija completed a 14-0 run for a 70-60 lead. Maccabi called timeout after which Vujcic scored inside, but Lorbek's layup showed that the hosts wouldn't crack. Jasaitas scored from the line and Sharp hit a three to cut the deficit in half with 3 minutes remaining. Jurak made and then missed a free throw, but Olimpija was first to the rebound and the hosts started looking to drain the clock. However Sharp made it just 73-70 with 1:14 left and Jurak fouled out crashing the offensive glass after a Lorbek miss. Jasaitas's free throws made it a one-point game with 46 seconds to go. Lorbek spun Vujcic around to put Olimpija back up by 3, but Vujcic tied it with a triple with 17 seconds on the clock. The game looked like it was headed to overtime, but Rannikko killed the clock and went in for the game-winner in the final seconds, scoring a short jumper to the delight of the home fans in what will be their final home game of the Euroleague season.
Thursday, January 25, 2007