Maccabi Electra roared for its fifth straight Group C win behind a brilliant performance from All-Euroleague center Sofoklis Schortsanitis in an 85-76 victory over EA7 Emporio Armani Milano at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv on Thursday. Big Sofo scored a career-high 28 points as Maccabi improved to 5-1 and remained alone atop the group standings. Schortsanitis dominated the proceedings early as Maccabi took a double-digit lead in the opening quarter. His 22nd points at the halftime buzzer made it 52-38 at the break. Armani battled back led by Danilo Gallinari to get within 3 in the third quarter, but Jordan Farmar scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to steer Maccabi to the win. Farmar alos had 6 rebounds and 5 assists. In all five Maccabi players had at least 5 rebounds as the hosts outrebounded Milano 41-22. Gallinari paced the visitors with 24 points, Antonis Fotsis posted 15 points and 9 rebounds, Malik Hairston scored 12 and Omar Cook tallied 12 points and 8 assists for Armani, which dropped to 2-4.
A fast-paced start saw the ball travel up and down the floor several times before Stefano Mancinelli broke the ice with a two-handed slam in transition. Schortsanitis picked up Maccabi’s first points with a tip in. Big Sofo had his way against his former Olympiacos teammate Ioannis Bourousis and scored the yellow-and-blue’s first 7 points. Fotsis evened the score at 7-7 with a triple before Keith Langford struck from downtown for the hosts. Mancinelli kept it close with a bucket inside, but Devin Smith added 2 from the line and Sofo dished to a cutting Lior Eliyahu to lift Maccabi to 16-9. Cook spotted up and nailed a Milano triple, but Schortsanitis could not be stopped and converted a basket-plus-foul for 12 points in less than seven minutes. Yogev Ohayon put the hosts up 9 with a fast break layup. After a timeout, Gallinari netted from the line for EA7, but Maccabi kept pushing and Farmar answered from the line to make it 25-14 after 10 minutes.
Ohayon from the line and Eliyahu from the baseline further padded the Maccabi cushion in the first minute of the second quarter. Hairston countered with a big three only to see Tal Burstein do the same for Maccabi. Bourousis and Schortsanitis traded points before Gallinari drained a long two-pointer. Milano could not stop Sofo without fouling him and the All-Euroleague center made it 37-23 with 2 more free throws. Hairston kept Armani alive with his second three-pointer and a short jumper. But Smith kept the hosts comfortably ahead with a three of his own. Gallinari sank a big three, but Maccabi again answered quickly, this time through Farmar with layups on consecutive plays. Farmar’s first three-pointer put Maccabi up 47-31. Gallinari tacked on 2 points for Milano from the line and 2 more with a long jumper. Sofo went inside for his 20th point of the half, but a Mancinelli triple kept Maccabi from pulling away. A Schortsanitis tip-in at the buzzer made it 52-38 for the hosts at the break.
Cook drilled a three seconds into the second half to set the tone and then Gallinari closed the gap to 9. An offensive foul on Schortsanitis was followed by a Fotsis triple as Nokia Arena fell silent. A Hairston jumper made it 10 straight points for Milano and triggered a Maccabi timeout. Schortsanitis ended a three-minute scoring drought, but Fotsis connected from behind the arc to make it 54-51. Sofo passed his career-high with his 26th points of the night off a nice dish from Ohayon and Smith sank a jumper for some breathing room. Cook and David Blu swapped threes as the excitement built. Gallinari nailed his eighth free throw and Hairston drove for 2 as Armani kept the pressure on. But Maccabi managed to remain at least 3 points in front and a Hendrix follow made it 67-62 through three quarters.
Farmar put Maccabi on his shoulders at the start of the fourth quarter. His triple gave Maccabi some room before Fotsis dunked for Milano. But then Farmar corrected his own miss and went coast to coast for a layup to make it a 10-point lead once again. The big guns – Gallinari and Schortsanitis – traded baskets as Maccabi maintained control. An offensive foul on Schortsanitis slowed the Maccabi attack, but Armani failed to capitalize. Gallinari topped the 20-point mark and then nailed a three to make it 76-71 with just over three minutes to go. Farmar answered quickly with a three – and then Cook did the same. A pair of Richard Hendrix free throws and a key block from Eliyahu kept Maccabi safely ahead. Smith made it 83-74 with 51 seconds to go. After a pit of Fotsis free throws, a turnover and unsportsmanlike foul called on Farmar gave the visitors a prayer, but Gallinari missed both free throws and Maccabi held on for its fifth straight win.
Thursday, November 24, 2011