Partizan defeat Maccabi 81-73
Partizan Belgrade and its amazing fans stand on the doorstep of their first Final Four in more than a decade after they defeated visiting Maccabi Electra 81-73 on Tuesday to move within a singe victory of winning their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series. Partizan took a 2-1 lead with the win before 20,783 fans at Belgrade Arena. All of them and more can be expceted to return for Game 4 on Thursday, when Partizan could clinch its first Final Four appearance since 1998. Partizan led early and often, keeping Maccabi on its heels the entire game with the help of its sixth man in the stands. Bo McCalebb paced the winners with 18 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 steals. Aleks Maric worked inside to the tune of 16 points and 7 rebounds, while Jan Vesely added 14 and 6, respectively. The Partizan defense did the rest, not letting any Maccabi scorer get going. Alan Anderson scored 13 points, Chuck Eidson and D'Or Fischer 11 each, and Doron Perkins 10, but Maccabi shot less than 40% from both two- and three-point distance.
Amid incredible noise from the Partizan fans, Anderson opened the scoring for Maccabi. Lawrence Roberts answered with free throws before Slavko Vranes missed twice but slammed on the third try for Partizan's first lead, 4-2. Vesely moved the lead up to 9-3 by converting an offensive rebound and putting in a layup. Guy Pnini hit a three-pointer for Maccabi, but Lawrence hit a baby-hook and McCalebb raced off on the break to give a 13-6 margin to the hosts. Eidson and Maric exchanged free throws before Aleksandar Rasic pushed Partizan up 18-9 from downtown. Fischer slammed and added an additional free throw in response, making it 18-12. After Maric made 2 free throws, however, a triple by McCaleeb extended put Partizan's lead into double digits, at 23-12. Vesely put back an offensive rebound to cap a 12-4 run for Partizan before Perkins scored twice to cut the hosts' advantage to 26-17 after 10 minutes.
Stephane Lasme assisted Perkins in a hi-low play to break a scoreless spell at the start of the second quarter and get Maccabi within 26-19, but the immediate answer was a rocket from long range nailed by Dusan Kecman. Maric then fought to put back an offensive board and give Partizan another double-digit margin, 31-20. McCalebb used his speed to add a fastbreak and another driing basket at 35-22, but the crowd really exploded when his three-pointer on shot-clock buzzer and the ensuing fastbreak dunk by Vesely opened a 40-24 lead after an amazing 14-5 run. Fischer threw down an alley-oop pass from Anderson to revive Maccabi, and soon Eidson from beyond the arc reduced the gap to 42-30. Rasic came to Partizan's rescue then with a three-pointer from the corner before Maric's next layup made him Partizan's third double-figure scorer and left a 47-34 scoreboard at halftime.
After the break, Fischer made a pair of jump shots from the top of the key around a layup by Lasme that quickly sliced the difference to 47-40. A jump-hook by Vranes finally broke 3 scoreless minutes by the hosts, but Maccabi looked more focused and Fischer's next dunk kept his team close. The fans got a chance to explode again, however, on a three-pointer Kecman nailed coming off a screen to restore Partizan's double-digit edge, 52-42. Branislav Dekic and Maric addedd free throws to that margin at 56-42 before Vesely's layup capped an 11-2 run for his side. Perkins tried to keep Maccabi alive from mid-range, but perfect execution offered Maric an easy basket and Partizan a 60-45 lead. David Bluthenthal from long distance scored his first basket of the night, and Yaniv Green added a free throw to make it 60-49 but another offensive rebound and layup for Vranes kept Maccabi down as Partizan held a 64-50 lead after 30 minutes.
Almost 2 minutes passed in the fourth quarter until Andrew Wisniewski buried a triple to give Maccabi some hope. Even though McCalebb answered with a reverse layup, Anderson also lined up and hit from downtown to make it 66-56. Partizan looked inside again to Maric, who backed in for a basket. The slow scoring pace then favored Partizan, and when Lawrence Roberts buried his own triple, it was 71-58 and the home fans were back into it with under 6 minutes left. A transition triple by Bluthenthal lowered the difference to 71-61, and after another turnover, Partizan took a timeout. Vesely left with 5 fouls shortly after, but Vranes used an offensive rebound to add free throws to the difference. The final decider came with 3:40 to play, when Roberts kicked out a pass to Partizan captain Petar Bozic, whose three-pointer made it 76-61. Eidson sent in a shorter jumper, and Fischer after him, getting Maccabi within 76-65 as the clock ran below 2 minutes, but the visitors' next shot didn't fall, while McCalebb's did, assuring Partizan a chance to reach the Final Four at home on Thursday.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010