Before its 10,000 friends in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv got back on its rails after consecutive losses in Group B by turning back visiting Buducnost 107-86 in a game the hosts led throughout. Maccabi improved to 3-3 with the victory, good for a three-way tie for third place with Unicaja and Montepaschi. Buducnost fell to 1-5. Maccabi had led in the first half by as many as 25 points, but Buducnost came all the way back to within 8 near the end of the third quarter. That woke Maccabi enough for a 20-0 run that ended the drama well before it could get worrisome for the home team. Maccabi started a bit slowly as after 5 minutes the score was set on 15-14 for the locals, with Beno Udrih having scored 6 of them. Suddenly, then came Tal Burstein and Marcus Goree with some great basketball that propelled Maccabi on a 16-4 run until the end of the first quarter. Maccabi got most of those points running the fastbreaks, which served to fire up the 10,000 fans in Yad Eliyahu. Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Maccabi was holding inside threat John Brown of Buducnost to just 1 point. Only Zarko Cabarkapa could score for the guests, still the lead kept rising until 31-18 after 10 minutes for the hosts. Burstein had 12 of those points and Goree 11.
Maccabi just kept enjoying itself at the start of the second quarter as Derrick Sharp came on and nailed back-to-back triples to offset 6 points by Buducnost and maintin the lead at 13 points, 37-24. Huseyin Besok, Gur Shelef and David Bluthenthal now joined Maccabi's second wave. The captain, Shelef, served up his first three-pointer of the season. While Maccabi was shooting the lights out, Buducnost was having increasing trouble getting any good shots against the home defense. At 18 minutes, the crowd was pumped enough to give a standing ovation when Lior Lubin came on to replace Udrih at point guard. Maccabi's bench players managed to boost the lead to 53-28. Buducnost could only hope then that something would go right, and something did, in the form of a 2-9 run capped by Gavrilo Pajovic's three-pointer. There, the half ended, with Maccabi holding a commanding 55-37 edge. Cabarkapa led all scorers with 13 points, while Burstein had 12, Goree and Udrih 11 each for Maccabi.
The second half opened exactly as the first ended. Buducnost did not give up as Brown started scoring inside to join Cabarkapa. Within 5 minutes, the visitors had cut the deficit down to 11 points, 62-51, from what had been 25 late in the previous quarter. Although Buducnost was improving, it had trouble shooting from downtown, and making only 3 for 16 three-pointers until then let Maccabi maintain its lead around 12 points. That changed, however, as Buducnost connected back-to-back triples and the score was suddenly 69-61 with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Maccabi responded with the next 6 points, and after a basket-plus-free throw by Burstein led at the end of three quarters 75-61.
The Maccabi run continued into the final quarter. Nikola Vujcic with one basket, Sharp with another three-pointer and Burstein with a hugh dunk set the score board at 82-61, finishing Buducnost's hopes early in the quarter. And Maccabi continued shutting out the guests as Shelef's easy layup gave made it 89-61 before Aleksandar Smiljanic broke the Buducnost drought in minute 34. Once it had been threatened, the Maccabi run was a decisive 20-0, adn all that was left was for the crowd to enjoy it and Buducnost to be happy that it had taken its best shot.
Thursday, November 14, 2002