By Amy Samin
An excellent first half by Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv was enough to earn what ended up being a heart-stopping 65 – 62 win over Panathinaikos Athens at Nokia Arena. Yogev Ohayon had another fantastic game with 12 points and 6 assists. Devin Smith also had a great game, scoring 11 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. On Thursday the teams meet again for Game 4 in the best-of-five series.
Blatt’s starters were Yogev Ohayon, Keith Langford, Devin Smith, Lior Eliyahu and Richard Hendrix. Maccabi started off strong with points by Smith and Langford, but the visitors started to find the basket after two minutes and tied the score at 5 all after four minutes of play in the period. Ohayon drained a three (assist Langford) and David Blu did likewise shortly after to make it 14 – 5 with under three minutes left in the quarter. Ohayon added an around-the-world layup and then a dish to Sofo Schortsanitis in the paint, 18 – 7 with two minutes remaining. Maccabi’s defense continued to hold the Greeks in check, while Blu (assist Theo Papaloukas) and team captain Tal Burstein each added three pointers to end the period with Maccabi leading 24 – 13.
Panathinaikos put together a mini-run at the start of the second quarter to pull within six, 26 – 20 after nearly three minutes. Maccabi came back from a time out with renewed determination on defense, with a block by Hendrix followed by the visitors throwing the ball away. Hendrix scored four and Smith added five to make it 35 – 26 with three minutes left in the period. Ohayon and Guy Pnini each scored a layup, while Eliyahu scored off a dime from Hendrix in the paint. The half ended with Maccabi up 41 – 28.
The third quarter got underway with two buckets by the visitors, but Sofo scored to keep Maccabi’s lead in double digits, 43 - 32. Maccabi looked a bit lackluster, while the Greeks continued to fight; a layup by Stratos Perperoglou made it a five point game, 46 – 41 with three and a half left in the period. Smith’s layup helped a bit, and Papaloukas dished to Eliyahu for two more, and the quarter ended with Maccabi leading by six, 50 – 44.
A dunk by Mike Batiste further reduced Maccabi’s lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but Blu responded with a long two pointer. The teams continued to trade baskets through the first half of the period; a layup by Ohayon made it 58 – 53 with five minutes remaining. Once again Panathinaikos pulled within three, but a putback and 1 by Hendrix made Maccabi’s lead a bit more comfortable, 61 – 55 with four and a half on the clock. Hendrix and Langford pulled down defensive rebounds to deny the Greeks any second chance shots, but eventually Kostas Kaimakoglou and Perperoglou narrowed the gap to 61 – 60. Smith came through with a deuce, but once again the Greeks came within one, 63 – 62 with 35 seconds on the clock. No one in Nokia Arena took a breath while Hendrix’s putback layup balanced on the rim, then dropped to make it 65 – 62 Maccabi with 15 seconds left. A three point attempt by Nick Calathes missed the mark and Langford corralled the rebound to ensure that Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv would bring home the 65 – 62 win over Panathinaikos Athens.
Maccabi: Ohayon 12 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds; Smith 11 points, 9 rebounds; Hendrix 9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks; Eliyahu 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists; Schortsanitis 8 points, 2 rebounds1 steal, 1 assist; Blu 8 points, 2 rebounds; Langford 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist; Burstein 3 points, 1 assist; Pnini 2 points; James 1 rebound, 1 block.
Top Scorers for Panathinaikos: Batiste 13 points; Vougioukas and Calathes 11 points each.