Two teams built for big things staged an overtime classic in Group B on Thursday, scoring more than 215 points between them before visiting Maccabi finally outlasted Skipper 104-111 after 45 minutes of thrills. Tal Burstein's three-pointer after an offensive rebound of his own missed sent the game to overtime for Maccabi. There, Nikola Vujcic and Anthony Parker took over for the guests to assure them a 4-0 record and a continuing share of first place with CSKA Moscow. Skipper, meanwhile, dropped to a dangerous 1-3 in the group standings. Great performances filled the night in Bologna, perhaps the most impressive coming from last week's MVP, Maccabi center Maceo Baston, who had 19 points, 18 rebounds, 7 steals, 1 assist and 2 blocks for the winners. Parker led his team with 21 points. Vujcic had 19 more, Deon Thomas 16, Burstein 14 and Derrick Sharp 11. Skipper attempted an incredible 46 three-point shots, making 13, with 5 coming from Carlos Delfino, who led his team with 21 points. Milos Vujanic added 17, Gianmarco Pozzecco 16, Matjaz Smodis and Hanno Mottola 14 each.
Skipper started off strong with Hanno Mottola punishing Maccabi from outside and inside, but the hosts had only an 11-10 lead to show for it halfway through the quarter. Skipper had a casualty, too, as Matjaz Smodis picked up three quick fouls and was forced to the bench quickly. Maccabi played a zone defense for almost the entire quarter and forced a series of missed jump shots, which it turned into fastbreak opportunities. Sarunas Jasikevicius drilled his first triple of the game when Tal Burstein found him in transition and brought Maccabi to within one point. Parker was Maccabi's main threat in the quarter, however, with 10 points. His pull up jump shot in transition once again gave Maccabi a 11-14 lead. Skipper kept pace behind Milos Vujanic, who scored 7 points in the opening quarter and his drive down the heart of the Maccabi zone brought Skipper to within 15-16. Maccabi surged to 18-23 after Parker scored and drew a foul. But Skipper came back thanks to Gianluca Basile's penetrations, which resulted in a triple by Vujanic and a dunk by Tomas Van Den Spiegel, cutting the Maccabi lead to a minimum of 24-25 after 10 minutes.
Maccabi got a boost early in the second quarter from reserve big man Deon Thomas, who scored 6 points as Maccabi continued to look inside. Maceo Baston, too, would score 6 points around the basket, including 4 consecutively with which Maccabi grabbed a 31-36 lead. Mottola struck back from long range for Skipper, pulling the hosts to within 34-36, but Derrick Sharp immediately answered with a triple of his own with 4 minutes remaining until the half. Van Den Spiegel then scored a three-point play for Skipper but picked up his third foul on the next possession. Skipper kept the pressure on Maccabi with Carlos Delfino coming off the bench to score 5 points and finally knotting the score at 41-41 on a Smodis dunk off Mottola's drive into the Maccabi zone. Both teams had trouble scoring near the end of the first half, but Skipper nabbed the advantage thanks to Gianmarco Pozzecco. His tough basket in the lane tied it 45-45 and then his pass to Delfino for a buzzer-beating triple sent the hosts to the lockers ahead 48-45.
Skipper's struggle from long range went away at the beginning of the third quarter as Delfino and Vujanic knocked down triples on consecutive possessions. Vujanic's shot gave Skipper its biggest lead of the game, 56-48, but the momentum swung in Maccabi's favor after Smodis picked up his fourth foul against Nikola Vujcic. After the Maccabi center's 2 free throws, Thomas nailed a foul-line jumper and Parker connected on 3 of 4 free throws, making the score 58-57 halfway through the quarter. Maccabi tied the score following Derek Sharp's triple, but Smodis responded with 2 strikes of his own from long range putting Skipper back in pole position, 66-62, after 27 minutes. Maccabi's marksman, Sharp, wasn't finished yet, however: his next three-pointer was followed by a Baston lay-in with 26 seconds left in the quarter. Suddenly, Maccabi had grabbed control of the game again. When Skipper couldn't convert on the last quarter's last possession, Maccabi had a 66-69 advantage heading into the final 10 minutes.
After Sharp's clutch baskets in the third quarter, Skipper's own unlikely hero, Patricio Prato, knotted the score at 69-69 with a triple from the corner to open the fourth. Pozzecco then drew two fouls and knocked down his free throws as did Mottola. A spectacular fast break pass from Pozzecco to Delfino brought the Bologna public to its feat and gave the hosts an 80-71 edge after 33 minutes. But Maccabi was hardly done. Vujcic and Thomas worked effectively on the high and low post, scoring the first 10 points of the quarter for Maccabi. Pozzecco matched them himself, however, and once again brought the fans to their feet when he drilled a three-pointer then knocked down 2 more free throws.
Neither team backed down as the final minutes ticked away. Maccabi pulled to within 88-85 after Burstein came off a pick to nail a jump shot, but Vujanic responded with a tough basket amid Maccabi's big men. The score was 92-88 after Mottola drew a foul in the low post and made 2 free throws. The teams traded missed jump shots and Maccabi, behind 92-88, called a timeout with 1:08 left. Baston dunked in traffic on a feed from Parker to get Maccabi 2 points closer at 92-90, but Basile made 2 free throws 31 seconds to preserve a 94-90 Skipper lead. The game turned into a free thorw shooting contest, and Skipper seemed to have the game in hand with 10 seconds left when Maccabi's Burstein missed his first foul shot with his team down 3 points, 94-97. After Burstein intentionally missed the second, Baston grabbed the rebound and found Burstein wide open at the top of the key. Burstein's triple hit nothing but net and the game went into overtime.
Vujcic led Maccabi to a strong start in overtime, scoring 4 straight points in the first minute. But Delfino drained a three-pointer to make the score 100-101 and Smodis drew a charge from Vujcic on the next possession. Skipper's Van Den Spiegel missed 2 free throws but on its next possession Skipper tied the score at 102-102 after Delfino made both of his. Maccabi's star, Parker, coldly responded with a triple to put Maccabi ahead 102-105 with 1:40 to play. Vujanic tried to respond for Skipper but his triple rattled around the rim and wouldn't go down. Maccabi's David Bluthenthal - making his first appearance of the night - drew a foul and his 2 free throws made the score 102-107 for the guests. With no miracles forthcoming for Skipper, Maccabi went home with another victory to remain perfect still in Group B.
Thursday, November 27, 2003