By Amy Samin
The 91 – 85 win in OT over Cibona Zagreb puts Maccabi’s Adriatic League record at 15 – 1. Devin Smith led all scorers with 19 points; Keith Langford added 16, and Lior Eliyahu contributed 11. Also playing well were Shawn James (12 rebounds), Jon Scheyer, and Richard Hendrix, each of whom scored 9 points. Guy Pnini (injury), Tal Burstein (ill) and David Blu did not accompany the team on the road trip. Maccabi will return to Nokia Arena on Monday for the Israeli League game against Ironi Ashkelon.
After the game, Maccabi’s head coach David Blatt said, “It was an interesting game. We needed to deal with some difficulties, something we haven’t had to do recently, and that happened mainly because of our terrible averages from the free throw line tonight, otherwise we would have finished the game a lot earlier and more easily. The bottom line is, I’m happy they gave us a fight and that it was a tough, competitive game. That’s important as we look toward the start of the Top 16 in the Euroleague. We’re going to have a tough game on Monday against Ashkelon, and certainly in Kaunas on Thursday.”
“Tonight we were missing three players: our captain, Burstein, Pnini and Blu; all of them are key players. But the other players got more minutes and they knew how to respond with good basketball. I’m pleased Sofo got a good number of minutes, in order to get back into the swing of things. Also, this was Keith’s second game in two days after a fairly long absence. All in all, it was a tough away win. Cibona is a much better team than they were a month or two ago.”
“People are downplaying the value of the victories we’re getting in the Adriatic League, but these away wins are both hard and important. For example, tonight Radnički defeated Partizan fairly easily, and I’m not surprised because Radnički is a tough place to play and it’s even tougher to win there, like a lot of other places in this league.”
Maccabi’s starting lineup included Lior Eliyahu, Sofo Schortsanitis, Demond Mallet, Devin Smith and Keith Langford. The team looked strong in the early minutes of the period, jumping to a 16 – 6 lead after five minutes on points from Sofo, Eliyahu, Langford (from the top of the arc) and Mallet from three point range (assist Langford). Maccabi continued to dominate in the second half of the period, with Eliyahu adding a tip in and Sofo scoring in the paint, 20 – 13 Maccabi with just under three minutes on the clock. Hendrix added a baseline jumper and Langford scored from the field and the charity stripe, but it was Jon Scheyer who drained a three at the buzzer to put Maccabi up by twelve, 28 – 16 to end the quarter.
Tomislav Zubčić scored for the hosts to open the second quarter, but Scheyer responded with another trey on the right wing. Eliyahu added a bucket and a free throw to put Maccabi up 36 – 21 after four minutes of play in the period. The Croatians scored six unanswered points, but Smith and Mallet rebuilt Maccabi’s lead, 40 – 30 with three and a half minutes left in the period. Hendrix added a deuce and Smith sank another catch-and-shoot from three point range, while Theo Papaloukas showed off some smooth ball handling before dropping in a stop-and-pop that made it 47 – 35 with two minutes remaining. Shawn James added a point from the foul line and a dunk to finish the half with Maccabi leading 50 – 36.
Maccabi got off to a slow start at the beginning of the third quarter; with a layup by Eliyahu and a basket from downtown by Smith Maccabi’s only points in the first three minutes, 55 – 44. The next seven points scored in the game came from the free throw line, until Antwain Barbour scored a three for the hosts to narrow their deficit to 58 – 51 with just over three minutes left in the period. Cibona continued to fight hard, and despite points by Langford, Eliyahu and Hendrix, the period ended with the hosts still down by only seven, 68 – 61.
The fourth quarter started off even more slowly than the one before, with neither team scoring until Smith sank a bucket off the glass two and a half minutes into the period. Barbour replied with another three pointer to cut Maccabi’s lead down to six, but Langford’s pair of free throws made it 72 – 64 with six and a half minutes left in the period. Once again it was Barbour from downtown who chiseled yet another point off of Maccabi’s lead, 72 – 67. Not to be outdone, Smith sank another three, and James added points to put Maccabi’s lead back in double digits, 77 – 67 with three and a half remaining. Yet again Cibona battled their way back into the game, this time going on a 10 – 0 scoring run that tied the game at 77 with less than a minute on the clock. It looked like Langford’s two from the charity stripe would finish the game, but a layup by Marin Rosić sent the game into overtime with the score tied at 79.
Smith and James both scored at the start of the extra period to give Maccabi an 84 – 79 lead after one minute. The teams traded free throws for the next minute and a half, with both sides focusing on defense. James and Scheyer made some key defensive rebounds, and Scheyer coolly drained a clutch three from the left corner to put Maccabi up 89 – 81 with just over two minutes left in overtime. James continued to dominate the defensive boards, and Hendrix (assist Mallet) delivered a smooth mid-range jumper to make it 91 – 81. Maccabi continued to hang tough, with both James and Hendrix denying the home team second chances under the basket. In the closing seconds Cibona managed a pair of free throws and a layup, but it wasn’t enough as Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv came away with a 91 - 85 overtime victory over Cibona Zagreb in the Adriatic League.
Maccabi: Smith 19 points, 4 rebounds; Langford 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal; Eliyahu 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; James 9 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals; Hendrix 9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal; Scheyer 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist; Schortsanitis 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist; Mallet 7 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Papaloukas 3 points, 3 assists.
Top scorers for Cibona: Barbour 16 points; Rosić 15 points.