By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv suffered a disappointing 71-70 loss to Caja Laboral Vitoria at Nokia Arena, falling to 0-2 in the Euroleague Top 16. Ricky Hickman led Maccabi's scorers with 18 points, Darko Planinic contributed 11 points. Maccabi will try to claim their first victory in the Top 16 next week against Fenerbahce Ulker at home in Nokia Arena.
Starters for Maccabi were team captain Lior Eliyahu, Devin Smith, Shawn James, Ricky Hickman and Yogev Ohayon. Caja jumped to an early 5-0 lead, but layups by Hickman and Smith and a catch and shoot on the left wing by Hickman made it 8-7 Maccabi after two and a half minutes. James rejected a bucket by former Maccabi player Matje Lampe, but Caja didn't give up, and by the halfway mark in the period they had retaken the lead, 12-10. Darko Planinic and Logan worked together to keep Maccabi close, and thanks to free throws by the former and steals and points by the latter Maccabi retook the lead. The period ended with a buzzer beater by Sylven Landesberg that put Maccabi up 23-20.
Landesberg scored early in the second quarter to give Maccabi a four point lead, 27-23, but the visitors came back and retook the lead. A huge slam by James (assist Hickman) kept Maccabi in it, but by the five minute mark the Spaniards led 33-29. Caja continued to look good, and had increased their lead to 41-30 by the time the clock showed just over two minutes remaining in the period. Eliyahu sank one of his classic floaters off the glass, but it wasn't enough to get Maccabi back in the game before the half ended with the score 44-32.
The third quarter got off to a slow start for both teams, and halfway through the period the visitors lead was 49-39. Hickman downed two from the foul line, then added a coast to coast slammer after stealing the ball. James added tough defense in the paint, and Landesberg drained a three from the right corner. Smith's clutch jumper made it a one point game, 49-48 with two minutes left in the period. Hickman added another layup to tie the score, then scored from downtown to put Maccabi back in the lead. Landesberg delivered another buzzer beating triple to end the period with Maccabi up 56-50.
Smith scored for Maccabi to open the fourth quarter, but Caja went on a scoring run and reclaimed the lead 60-58 close to midway through the period. James contributed a bucket and one to put the lead back in Maccabi's hands, 61-60 with four and a half minutes left in the game. Points by Hickman, Eliyahu and James (assist Hickman) made it 67-63 with three and a half minutes on the clock, but Caja scored two straight three pointers to retake the lead a minute later, 69-67. A foul shot by Hickman and a key defensive rebound by James set the stage for Ohayon to score the go-ahead layup with thirty seconds on the clock, 70-69 Maccabi. Maccabi's defense battled hard but Caja was able to sink a basket with 8:9 remaining, and that was enough to win the game. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv lost their second straight Top 16, this time at home against Caja Laboral Vitoria, 71-70.
Maccabi: Hickman 18 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals; Planinic 11 points; Smith and Landesberg 10 points each; James 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks; Ohayon 6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists; Eliyahu 4 points; Logan 3 points, 3 rebounds.