Maccabi Electra led from start to finish to polish off Olympiacos Piraeus on Thursday night at Tel Aviv’s Nokia Arena. The winter break seemed to do head coach Pini Gershon’s charges well as they were in synch offensively with five scoring in double figures. Maccabi improved to 6-3 in Group A – the same record as the Reds – but trails Olympiacos in the standings due to a 19-point loss suffered in Greece in November. However Maccabi could still potentially win the group with a big win in Psain next week against Unicaja. The hosts started strong and took an 8-1 lead and increased it to double figures in the second period before Yotam Halperin's shooting helped the Reds close the gap to 47-45 at halftime. However D’Or Fischer scored 7 – including two dunk-and-fouls – as the hosts opened the second half with an 11-0 charge and Maccabi was never seriously threatened again. Carlos Arroyo paced Maccabi with 20 points and 5 assists, while Lior Eliyahu, who was received his December MVP trophy from club president Shimon Mizrahi before halftime, added 18 points and 8 rebounds. Fischer recorded 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, while Marcus Brown added 15 and Omri Casspi 14. Josh Childress scored 15 to lead the Reds, Halperin netted 14 against his boyhood club, Ioannis Bourousis produced 11 points, 12 rebounds and 4 steals, Theo Papaloukas had 11 points and 5 assists and Milos Teodosic added 10.
Maccabi corralled the opening tip and struck first on an Arroyo move. Yaniv Green added a turn-around jumper before Nikola Vujcic scored Olympiacos’s first point from the line. Baskets by Brown and Casspi concluded an 8-1 start before Childress dropped in a three. Georgios Printezis added a basket for the visitors, but Brown’s three made it 13-6. Teodosic buried a three to keep the Reds close, but Brown kept Maccabi cruising. Brown, however, needed to sit after committing his second foul as head coach Pini Gershon started to freshen his team by bringing in Tre Simmons and – for the first time in a year – Marcus Fizer. Olympiacos took advantage as Childress went coast to coast for a layup and Vujcic scored inside to make it 17-15. Fizer answered with his first basket, prompting Olympiacos head coach Panagiotis Giannakis to turn to Papaloukas, Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Bourousis off his bench. The Reds fresh big men both scored a basket, but Simmons hit a three and Tal Burstein penetrated for a score to make it 25-19 after 10 minutes.
Derrick Sharp buried a three-pointer from the corner early in the second period to put Maccabi up 8, however Papaloukas answered in form and later went coast to coast for a layup. Maccabi got its fans back in the game when Eliyahu dunked and drew a foul. Papaloukas drew the Reds within 3 only for Arroyo to drill a three and then score on the break to make it 35-27. Halperin and Brown traded threes before a TV timeout allowed both teams a rest. Halperin drilled a second three, but Arroyo and Eliyahu increased the Maccabi lead to 9. And Brown made it 43-33 from the line. Schortsanitis and Bourousis scored on consecutive possessions before Papaloukas dished behind the back to Childress for a fast break slam that narrowed the gap to 4 and caused Maccabi to take a timeout. Eliyahu extended the hosts’ advantage with a three-point play, but another Halperin triple and a Bourousis fast break layup at the buzzer brought Olympiacos within 47-45 at halftime.
Brown tried to feed Fischer for an alley-oop as the second half got underway and it resulted in a drawn foul and 2 made free throws for the latter. Then Papaloukas was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul on Casspi on the break. Soon after Fischer produced a slam-plus-foul on a dish from Eliyahu and then Arroyo set up the big man for another dunk and foul for an 11-0 run to start the half. Papaloukas made a jumper to stop the bleeding, but an Arroyo three-pointer made it 61-47. Childress countered with a pretty slam, but Eliyahu kept Maccabi in control. Bourousos created a pretty slam off a give-and-go move with Printezis and Childress added a bucket to trim the gap to 11, but Fischer’s slam on the offensive glass and an Eliyahu three-point play restored the big lead and Brown took it to 72-56 with some free throws. Childress and Halperin continued to chip away at the big deficit, but Maccabi always seemed to have an answer. Zoran Erceg’s slam made it 74-61 with one period to play.
Teodosic with a basket and 2 free throws lessened the gap to single digits early in the second period and Vujcic added a score, but Casspi corrected his own miss and scored again on a feed from Fischer to go back up 13. Halperin made a pair of free throws, however Eliyahu struck twice to make it 84-69. After an Olympiacos timeout, Teodosic fired in a three, but was unable to spark his teammates towards the big run needed. Maccabi continued to push, knowing that erasing the 19-point loss it suffered to the Reds in Greece could come in handy in tiebreakers, but the visitors didn’t throw in the towel. Lynn Greer narrowed the gap to 10 with a jumper and Maccabi players missed a few free throws that prevented a shot at a 19-point win, but that didn’t stop the fans from celebrating a fine home win.
Thursday, January 8, 2009