By Amy Samin
Following their crucial victory over Anadolu Efes in Istanbul on Thursday, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Budućnost of Montenegro 81 – 69, in Week 7 of the Adriatic League. They are one of only two teams with a perfect record in that league. Shawn James, in his best game of the season so far, was named MVP with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Farmar added 14 points, Smith contributed 13 points, and Langford, who also played very well, scored 9 and pulled down 6 boards.
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv’s head coach, David Blatt, summed up the last few days: “It was a very successful weekend for us, with two away wins in tough venues. We really sweated for this win tonight and it’s a good thing, because that keeps us sharp. There was a great basketball atmosphere here which is characteristic of this region, the former Yugoslavia. The crowd is really on the ball, they make noise and get the players fired up. Today we distributed the minutes well. Players who played fewer minutes the last few games got a lot of minutes tonight and made a significant contribution, and we won the game even though we were missing Blu and Hendrix.”
“It’s not easy to win two away games in two days. Think about the fact that most of the teams here have an entire week to prepare and do everything they can to win in their game against us, while we barely have a day and a half, and that’s with a flight to get to the game. A lot of compliments should go out to Maccabi’s players, and to my team of assistants who do a fantastic job of preparing the team in such a short amount of time. Now we can rest a little and prepare for our Euroleague game on Thursday against Belgacom Spirou Charleroi, which I believe will be one of the big games of the season for us.”
Maccabi’s starters were Keith Langford, Devin Smith, Guy Pnini, Yogev Ohayon, and Sofo Schortsanitis. The home team opened well, if slowly, and took a 4 – 0 lead in the first two and a half minutes. Langford put Maccabi on the board with a putback, and Pnini added points from downtown to put Maccabi within one, 6 – 5. Budućnost inched their way to a 15 – 10 lead just past the midway point in the period. Points by James and team captain Tal Burstein narrowed the gap as time ran out on the first quarter with the hosts leading 17 – 16.
A dunk by James tied the score a minute into the second quarter, and Lior Eliyahu scored on a fast break off an assist from Jordan Farmar to put Maccabi up for the first time, 21 – 19. From there Maccabi extended their lead with more points from James and Eliyahu, as well as from Theo Papaloukas. Halfway through the period Maccabi’s lead was 27 – 21. Budućnost didn’t give up, and with two minutes left in the half retook the lead, 30 – 29. A putback by Sofo and points from the foul line gave Maccabi back the lead, which they held on to at the end of the half, 35 – 34.
The home team managed to tie the score at 36 early in the third quarter, but a trey from Smith and more points by James (assist Smith) put Maccabi back on top, 41 – 36. Budućnost fought their way back into the game and the lead seesawed through the middle of the period. James (putback and points off a steal and assist by Smith) and Langford (with a smooth drive to the basket) scored to retake the lead and even give Maccabi some breathing room, 50 – 44 with four minutes left on the clock. Farmar and Smith dominated the final minutes of the third quarter, and Maccabi led 57 – 50 going into the final period.
The fourth quarter opened with a dunk by Farmar and a putback by Langford to make it 61 – 52. Pnini followed a slick drive to the basket with points from outside the arc, putting Maccabi up 66 – 58 four minutes into the period. Farmar added a three pointer from the left wing and a reverse layup off a steal by Papaloukas, and Smith drained a shot from the top of the arc to make it 76 – 65. A Sofo-style three pointer (bucket and 1) and a dunk from Papaloukas finished off the game, giving Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv an 81 – 69 victory over Budućnost in Montenegro.
Maccabi: James 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block; Farmar 14 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Smith 13 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound; Langford 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block; Pnini 9 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block; Eliyahu 9 points, 3 rebounds; Schortsanitis 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist; Papaloukas 4 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals; Burstein 2 points, 2 assists.
Top scorers for Budućnost: Vitcovak 14 points; Vučević 13 points.