By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv opened the new season as it did last year, with an away loss, this time to a strong Armani Milano, 89 – 82. The only bright spots were Lior Eliyahu who scored 21 points and took 8 rebounds, coming away with an index score of 28, David Blu who contributed 17 points, and Theo Papaloukas with 13 points and 6 rebounds. On the other side, Malik Hairston, who came to Milano from Siena over the summer, was unstoppable, scoring 25 points and handing out 6 assists. Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points for Milano (13 of 16 from the foul line, after being fouled 11 times).
Jordan Farmar, Yogev Ohayon, and Shawn James made their Euroleague debuts in the game, and without a doubt we can expect great things from them in the future. Maccabi doesn’t have much time to catch their breaths after their first loss of the season, though; on Saturday they’ll face off against Široki of Bosnia and Herzegovina (6:00 p.m. Israel time, channel 55) in the Adriatic League. On Sunday Maccabi will return to Israel, and on Monday they meet Ironi Ashkelon of the Israeli League.
Maccabi led off with Devin Smith, Lior Eliyahu, Jordan Farmar, Yogev Ohayon, and Sofo Schortsanitis, while Milano’s starters were Danilo Gallinari, Antonis Fotsis, Drew Nicholas, Ioannis Bourousis, and Omar Cook. The hosts quickly took a 2 – 1 lead and hung on, pulling down the majority of the rebounds on both ends of the court but only occasionally converting them to points. One bucket that did go in was a three by Bourousis that made it 9 – 5 Milan near the halfway mark in the period. Theo Papaloukas came into the game for Maccabi and began working his magic, and a string of buckets for Maccabi (including a dunk by Sofo, a drive to the basket by Guy Pnini, and a trademark catch and shoot for three from David Blu) tied the score at 14 with a minute on the clock. Papaloukas himself scored the go-ahead bucket, then added three more from the charity stripe and the period ended with Maccabi up by five, 19 – 14.
Maccabi’s team captain Tal Burstein kicked off the second quarter with a layup, but it was Armani Milano who scored the next seven points, making it 21 all after two minutes of play in the period. A nice mid-range jumper from big man Richard Hendrix gave the lead back to Maccabi, while Blu added a dazzling spin and in. Milano didn’t give up though, and a drive to the basket by Farmar was quickly followed by a three pointer from Hairston that put the Italians up 29 – 27. Papaloukas again took control of the game, and a down-court alleyoop to Farmar made it 34 – 33, Maccabi. Gallinari and Hairston soon put the lead back in Italian hands, and the teams went into the halftime break with the hosts leading 41 – 38.
Milano dominated the third quarter, with Hairston and Nicholas giving the hosts a double digit lead. Points by Sofo, Blu, Hendrix and Eliyahu were not enough to flip the score, and at the end of the period Armani Milano led 65 – 52.
Maccabi fought their way back into the game in the fourth period, with points from Eliyahu, Hendrix, and two straight from downtown (one really should have been worth 4 points) by Blu made it 69 – 62. A bucket and 1 by Papaloukas and points from Eliyahu put Maccabi within four, 71 – 67 with five minutes left in the game. Gallinari immediately drained a three and Cook scored to give the Italians more breathing room 76 - 67, and coach David Blatt called for a timeout. Farmar and Blu executed nice drives in the paint, and three straight from the foul line by Papaloukas made it a 79 – 74 game with a minute left. Though Maccabi continued to fight ‘til the end, Gallinari and Hairston proved to be too much, and the game ended in an 89 – 82 victory for EA7 Emporio Armani Milano over Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv.
Maccabi: Eliyahu 23 points, 8 rebounds; Blu 15 points; Papaloukas 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists; Schortsanitis 9 points; Hendrix 6 points, 2 rebounds; Farmar 6 points, Burstein 4 points; Smith 2 points, 3 rebounds; Pnini 2 points, 2 assists; James 2 points.
Top Scorers for Milano: Hairston 25 points; Gallinari 23 points; Bourousis 13 points.