Partizan eliminated Maccabi Electra 76-67
Partizan advanced to its Euroleague Basketball Final Four in a dozen years by downing Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv 76-67 in front of 21,367 diehard fans at Belgrade Arena in the Serbian capital on Thursday. Partizan, which lifted its only Euroleague trophy in 1992, won the best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoff series 3-1 and will face Olympiacos in the Euroleague semifinal in Paris on May 7. Bo McCalebb paced the winners with 19 points, including 6 during a 12-2 start to the fourth quarter that saw the hosts pull away for good. Dusan Kecman added 12 while Lawrence Roberts pulled down 12 rebounds in a truly historic night for Partizan. Andrew Wisniewski led Maccabi with 15 points. D'Or Fischer and Doron Perkins each added 14 while Chuck Eidson had 12 for the guests. Back-to-back baskets by Slavko Vranes gave Partizan an 18-16 edge at the end of a very intense first quarter. Fischer shined right after that and got some help from Wisniewski to give Maccabi a 23-29 lead midway through the second quarter. Partizan improved its defense and found a go-to guy in Kecman, who led the hosts to a 38-35 edge at halftime. A jumper by Fischer helped Maccabi tie the game for the last time, 42-42. Vranes and McCalebb fueled a 12-2 run that Strahinja Milosevic capped with a dunk to break the game open, 67-54. Maccabi did not recover, allowing an incredible crowd at Belgrade Arena to celebrate the chance to see their team in the Euroleague Final Four for the first time since 1998.
Partizan was the aggressor at the start as a McCalebb steal led to a Kecman layup and Jan Vesely took his steal down the floor for a one-handed jam as the arena started to rock. Stephane Lasme calmed Maccabi as he drew a foul from Roberts and made a free throw. Fischer added a foul-line jumper, but Maccabi faced early foul trouble when Lasme was called for his second after less than two-and-a-half minutes. Wisniewski kept Maccabi close with a long jumper, but Roberts drew his third foul of the game and kept Partizan ahead from the line. Fischer drew Vesely’s second foul and knotted the game at 7-7. Kecman got a basket when Lasme goal-tended. Both teams subbed big men at the same time, with Aleks Maric stepping in for the hosts. Eidson sank free throws and a three-pointer by Wisniewski gave Maccabi its first lead, 9-12. Maric hit free throws, but Perkins answered from downtown for a 11-15 Maccabi edge. Petar Bozic set the crowd on fire with a rainbow triple and free throws to tie the game at 16-16. Maccabi struggled to score late in the first quarter and a layup by McCalebb put Partizan back ahead, 18-16, after 10 minutes.
Fischer split free throws early in the second quarter as Partizan stopped Maccabi's up-tempo game with physical defense. McCalebb made it 21-18 from the line. Partizan tried to stop Fischer with Vranes back on the floor. Fischer, however, shined with a tip-in, a baseline jumper and a baseball pass to Perkins for a basket after which Partizan called timeout at 21-24. The hosts could not find the way to the basket until Roberts drew a foul and calmly made free throws. A technical foul on Partian coach Dusko Vujosevic allowed Perkins and Bluthenthal to boost the guests' lead to 23-28. Lasme silenced the crowd with an alley-oop dunk, but free throws by Maric and a triple from the corner by Roberts kept Partizan within 29-30. Maccabi could not get Eidson and Bluthenthal involved and free throws by Kecman put the hosts back ahead. Wisniweski answered from downtown and even though Kecman coped him soon after that, he sank free throws to provide another lead change, 34-35. Vranes stepped up with a layup and got another basket after Lasme committed goaltending again, enough for Partizan to restore a 38-35 edge at halftime.
David Bluthenthal sank a fade-away jumper immediately after the break. Maccabi tried to get Alan Anderson involved early in the third quarter. Eidson took over with a wild three-pointer as Partizan used a tall lineup with Vesely at small forward and tried to open the court to feed Maric down low. Vesely came through with a slam and Maric drew a foul and put his team up 2. Fischer hit another jumper from the foul line to knot the score at 42-42. Bozic kept the Partizan fans singing with a triple. As the tension grew, both sides forfeited possessions due to traveling. Fischer knocked down another jumper only to see Aleksandar Rasic drain a triple. Bozic took a seat with 4 fouls and Eidson narrowed the gap to 2 from the line. Maric added 3 free throws on the next two possessions to stretch the lead to 51-46. Rasic made a clutch defensive play to save a ball and then sank a triple as the arena started to rock. Lasme drew a foul in transition and sank 2 free throws to end the Maccabi drought. Lasme added 2 more freee throws to get within 4. Branislav Dekic countered with 1 free throw before Wisniewski attacked the Partizan defense for a layup to make it 55-52 entering the fourth quarter.
Maccabi missed its first two shots of the fourth quarter and McCalebb capitalized with a basket-plus-foul – Wisniewski’s fourth – to keep the hosts in control. Maccabi struggles to make shots despite a number of offensive rebounds. McCalebb gave Partizan its biggest lead so far, 63-54, with a triple with seven minutes remaining. Anderson missed a tough three and Kecman dished to Vranes for a two-handed dunk as the arena erupted. Strahinja Milosevic blew by Fischer on the baseline for a slam to cap a 12-2 start to the quarter as the Partizan fans began to smell Paris. Perkins sank a free throw, but McCalebb darted through the Maccabi defense for a layup and a 14-point cushion. Maccabi continued to misfire and began to look dejected, while the hosts had a second wind fueled by the nonstop singing from the fans. Maccabi tried a full-court press, but Partizan proved up for the challenge. Lasme fouled out with three-and-a-half minutes remaining. Perkins brought Maccabi within 10 with a layup and 2 free throws. Fischer rejected Maric and Perkins made it 69-61 with a steal and 2 free throws. Robert went down hard into the camera row after fouling Perkins, but remained in the game. Eidson deflected a pass and Bluthenthal had a chance to do some damage with a three, but the ball bounced out and McCalebb scored at the other end. Wisniewski made a three with less than two minutes to go, but then fouled out on the next play. McCalebb made just 1 free throw, but Anderson missed from the corner with 1:31 to play. Eidson narrowed the gap to 6 with 1:12 remaining and Maric made just 1 with 58.7 on the clock. After a Maccabi timeout, Derrick Sharp missed from the corner and though Roberts missed twice from the line, Kecman grabbed the offensive rebound and made 2 free throws with 43.4 seconds left to practically ice the game. Maccabi continued to search for a miracle, but the fans were already on their feet waiting for the final buzzer to celebrate with their heroes.
Thursday, April 1, 2010