Maccabi took a huge step toward a return to the Quarterfinal Playoffs by downing previously undefeated Real Madrid 73-58 at home in Nokia Arena, Israel on Thursday in Group E. Both teams are tied with 3-1 records and 15-point differences in their victories against each other, but by virtue of a second tie-breaker - total points difference so far in the Top 16 so far - Madrid remains first in the Group E standings. Either team can advance to the playoffs with another victory, but might not need to win again in order to reach the next round. Maceo Baston led the winners with 20 points, while Sharon Shason became the unexpected factor with 16 points off the bench, including 4 three-point shots. Will Solomon had 10 points while Anthony Parker grabbed 13 rebounds for Maccabi. Felipe Reyes led Real Madrid with 14 points, Alex Scales had 11 and Igor Rakocevic 10. Madrid led 33-36 at halftime but a 10-1 run allowed Maccabi to get a 54-46 lead after 30 minutes that the hosts extended to 67-52 with 4 minutes to go. The outcome was clear and fight was for the tie-break advantage, but a fast break dunk by Baston made it 73-58 and both teams went scoreless in the final 45 seconds.
Both teams missed on their early possessions before Madrid's Venson Hamilton took advantage of a mismatch to dunk on Solomon to open the scoring. Maccabi answered on the next play when Maceo Baston corrected Solomon's miss with a slam. Madrid went inside to Hamilton again for a basket and Maccabi responded with Derrick Sharp setting Parker up for a score. Madrid was forced to make an early substitution when Bullock was whistled for his second foul after little more than 2 minutes. Igor Rakocevic replaced him as the team's continued to trade baskets at a surprisingly slow pace until Baston hit a long jumper and a pair of free throws to put Maccabi up 12-8. Then Sharp drilled a long-distance bomb and Madrid turned the ball over. The hosts started to build a lead that got as big as 16-9 after a Solomon steal and a Jamie Arnold free throw, but Rakocevic's free throws and a triple by Alex Scales cut kept Madrid within 18-14. However, Maccabi had the last word after Parker made 2 free throws and Solomon's buzzer-beating drive counted due to goaltending, giving the hosts a 22-14 lead after 10 minutes.
Mickael Gelabale scored on a three-pointer and a short jumper to boost the guests at the start of the second quarter. Maccabi got back on the board when Solomon's drive was assisted by Hamilton's goaltending again. Axel Hervelle threw down an uncontested slam in the middle of the Maccabi defense, but within seconds, Nikola Vujcic fed Baston for a similar slam. Gelabale continued his – and his team's – red-hot shooting, following Rakocevic's jumper with a bucket of his own to cut the deficit to 26-25. But just as the visitors heated up, they cooled down, missing five straight shots. Maccabi failed to take advantage, however, coring only twice in the next 5 minutes – including another goaltending call against Hamilton. Bullock ended the Madrid drought with a drive to the basket, but was also called for an offensive foul on the same play and returned abruptly to the bench. Rakocevic remained hot and his three-pointer gave Madrid its first lead since the opening minutes, 30-31. Vujcic answered with a bank shot, but Madrid continue to surge. Reyes went repeatedly to the foul line, with little luck, but those that he made allowed Madrid to take a 33-36 halftime lead.
The pace picked up a bit early in the third quarter, starting with Shason tying the score with a three-pointer in the first minute. Mous Sonko's triple put Madrid on top again, but Shason fed Baston inside as the scoring continued. Bullock's 24-second clock buzzer-beater made it 38-41, but a Baston dunk and a Solomon hoop finally gave Maccabi a lead. It didn't last. A triple by Scales put Madrid on top again, but that would also be Madrid's last field goal of the quarter. Vujcic tied the game at 44-44 and while Madrid got only a pair of free throws by Reyes in the next 5 minutes, Maccabi strung together a 10-1 run. It started with Arnold putting a move on Hervelle and then, after a timeout, Shason nailing a triple and scoring down the middle. Finally, Sharp's shot from downtown ended the quarter with Maccabi holding a 54-46 advantage.
Hamilton started the fourth period fired up and scored over Kirk Penney while drawing a foul and making the extra shot to keep his team from slipping behind further. A Solomon turnover saw the point guard land on the bench and in no time Madrid closed the gap to 55-52 on a Rakocevic triple. But after a Parker fade-away jumper, Scales threw up an airball and Sharp took advantage with a three in transition to put Maccabi in front by 8 points, 60-52. Madrid called timeout, but after it, Parker stole the ball from Gelabale and passed to Sharp, who assisted Shason for a three-pointer. Hervelle's attempted triple missed and Shason hit his own to put Maccabi on top 66-52 midway through the period and allowing the sell-out crowd to start fantasing about a win by more than 15 points and first place in the standings. Bullock's missed three allowed the hosts confidence to grown and Baston's free throw brought Maccabi to the 15-point brink soon thereafter, but there the difference stayed, meaning that the teams were tied on both records and point difference between them, but Madrid was still first for having 3 more points in its favor during the whole Top 16 - so far.
Thursday, March 16, 2006