Defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv wasted little time in taking control in its best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoff series as it raced to early leads and never looked back while downing visiting Scavolini Pesaro 88-60 at home on Tuesday in Tel Aviv. The victory means that Maccabi stands one more win away from returning to the Final Four to try to become the first back-to-back European champion in 14 years. Scavolini now faces the challenge of beating Maccabi at home in Pesaro on Thursday just to stay alive for a third game, if necessary, a week later in Tel Aviv. Sarunas Jasikevicius led the winners with 18 points, all but 4 of them in the first quarter, when he made 4 of 4 triples and Maccabi took over with a 14-2 blast. He only missed one shot in 28 minutes of play. Anthony Parker followed him with 12 points for Maccabi, while Nestoras Kommatos and Maceo Baston buried 11 each. Marko Milic led Scavolini with 16 points. Charles Smith added 14, Robert Archibald 10 plus a floor-high 9 rebounds.
Pumped up by another sold-out Nokia Arena crowd, Maccabi came out hot and got the game's first baskets from Tal Burstein on a jumper and Maceo Baston inside. Robert Archibald's tip-in and Milic's inside bucket tied the score temporarily, but Jasikevicius quickly took over, swishing back-to-back triples to trigger a 14-1 blast in which he made another jump shot and fed both Maceo Baston and Nikola Vujcic for dunks. Maccabi's smothering defense did the job on the other end until Milic squeezed in another shot. But Maccabi just went ahead and held Scavolini without a basket for almost 3 minutes near the end of the quarter until Charles Smith finally got his first points on a triple with 35 second left in the period. The problem for Scavolini was that by that time, Jasikevicius had drilled 2 more shots from the arc, also back-to-back, to raise the roof at Nokia and send Maccabi to a commanding 26-10 after 10 minutes.
Jasikevicius continued to be involved in nearly every Maccabi score, following a driving layup with an assist on the three-pinter by Derrick Sharp that boosted the lead to 33-14. When Jasikevicius took a breather, Anthony Parker picked up the torch and carried Maccabi ahead by 20 points, 39-19, with an acrobatic spin at the midway mark in the quarter. The pace slowed down with several fouls committed in the next few minutes, but the scoring remained high, with Bason, Parker and Gur Shelef trading points mostly with Milic, the only steady Scavolini scorer then. When Sharp made his second three-pointer with 1:30 to go in the half, however, Maccabi was up to its biggest led, 50-27. It didn't help Scavolini's hopes for a second-half comeback that Milic committed his third foul even as the Maccabi fans started doing the wave as their team headed to the locker room ahead 51-28.
Halftime didn't do either side much good as they combined to miss their first seven shots following the break. Smith made a runner to get things going for Scavolini, but Maccabi needed a few more minutes to before Parker hit a turn-around jumper to preserve what was still a 20-point lead, 55-34. Scavolini couldn't make full use of Maccabi's scoring drought, only cutting the deficit to a low of 18 points, 55-37, on a Scoonie Penn's three-pointer. When Maccabi finally got its legs back, 7 unanswered points punctuated by Shelef's triple brought the lead up to 25 points, 62-37. The fans got another reason to cheer when crowd favorite Yotam Halperin substituted Jasikevicius and gave a nifty assist to Nestoras Kommatos as Maccabi finished three quarters ahead 66-43.
By the start of the fourth quarter, both coaches were giving extended minutes to their reserves with the prospect of playing Game 2 in Pesaro only 48 hours away. Kommatos drilled a three-pointer and drew a foul for the highlight reel, but like Sharp earlier in the game, failed to convert the rare four-point play. Then Halperin sank a triple of his own to boost the lead to 76-47, forcing Scavolini coach Marco Crespi to call another timeout, looking for something to give his team hope for the next game. Hanno Mottola made a dunk on the first play after the timeout, but Maccabi continued to match Scavolini shot for shot as the time ticked away. Maccabi had chances to reach the 30-point barrier but the final score settled at 88-60 as both teams looked forward to the rematch in Pesaro.
Tuesday, April 5, 2005