By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv wrapped up the first half of the regular Euroleague season with a dramatic 78-76 win over Alba Berlin in Germany; their record now stands at 5-0. Devin Smith scored a career-high 20 points that included the most important basket of the game. Guy Pnini scored 11 points and Malcolm Thomas added 9 points.
Maccabi's starting lineup included Shawn James, Devin Smith, Ricky Hickman, Nik Caner-Medley and Yogev Ohayon. The game got off to a slow start, including turnovers by both teams. Maccabi was able to take advantage of Alba's mistakes, with two steals leading to layups by Hickman. Smith added a bomb from the top of the arc to make it 7-0 after two and a half minutes. James and Malcolm Thomas each scored to extend Maccabi's lead to 12-0. The hosts finally scored with less than four minutes remaining in the period, but a steal by Thomas led to points by team captain Guy Pnini, and Maccabi's lead grew to double digits with two minutes left in the period, 14-4. Alba Berlin put together a series of buckets to end the quarter with the score 16-10.
The second quarter got underway with points for Berlin, but Thomas answered with a bucket and 1. Smith added five straight points to reopen Maccabi's lead a bit, but Alba soon answered, cutting their deficit down to three, 24-21. A spinning drive and underhand flip into the basket by Hickman spiced things up a bit, but the hosts continued to chip away at Maccabi's lead. Pnini and Giorgi Shermadini scored to give Maccabi some breathing room, 30-25 with three and a half minutes left in the half. Berlin battled their way to a 30-30 tie before Smith stepped up with points from the foul line and downtown, 35-31 with under two minutes on the clock. Pnini also scored from outside the arc (assist Moran Roth) but two quick buckets by Berlin in the final seconds set the score at 38-35 going into the halftime break.
Alba Berlin scored quickly to start the third quarter, but Caner-Medley scored a trey in response. Berlin kept up the intensity, and took a 46-40 lead four minutes into the period. Points by Lior Eliyahu in the paint and a three by Logan put Maccabi back in the game, 46-45 at the halfway mark in the quarter. Once again it was Smith from downtown who put Maccabi back on top; Logan added points in the paint, making it 50-47 and forcing Alba Berlin's coach to call a time out with three minutes remaining in the period. Eliyahu added four points, and a steal plus layup by Pnini brought the score to 56-52 as the quarter ended.
It was Pnini who opened the scoring in the fourth quarter, while Shermadini scored twice off dimes from Eliyahu, 63-55 Maccabi. Berlin kept fighting, but Hickman and Thomas scored to make it 67-61 with five minutes left. The teams traded baskets, with Logan (three from the right wing) and James (smooth floater in the paint) scoring for Maccabi, and Smith adding points from the charity stripe that made it 74-68 with just under three minutes left. A putback by James was soon answered by Berlin, who scored four straight to make it a two point game with just over a minute on the clock. A drive in the lane by Smith gave Maccabi some breathing room, but the hosts scored to make it 78-76 with thirty seconds left. Maccabi failed to capitalize on their final possession of the game, but Berlin likewise wasted their last chance with an air ball from downtown, and the game ended with Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeating Alba Berlin by a score of 78-76.
Maccabi: Smith 20 points (4 of 5 from three point range); Pnini 11 points; Thomas 9 points, 6 rebounds; Logan and Hickman 8 points each; Shermadini 7 points; James and Eliyahu 6 points each; Caner-Medley 2 points; Ohayon 1 point.