Despite a first half dominated by Cibona, visiting Maccabi Tel Aviv managed to pull a 74-91 win in Zagreb, Croatia on Thursday night to remain undefeated atop Group D and on the brink of qualification to the quarterfinal playoffs. A 0-10 run bridging the last two quarters and a later 2-10 burst allowed Maccabi to pull away for good in a game that Cibona had led by 10 points in the first half. Maccabi's Group D record rose to 3-0, while Cibona remains winless and almost out of options to advance to the next round. Point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius led Maccabi with 20 points. Maceo Baston added 17 points, Nikola Vujcic and Tal Burstein 16 each, and Anthony Parker 15 for Maccabi. Vujcic added 11 rebounds for a double-double. For Cibona, Josip Vrankovic led the way with 24 points including 4 of 7 triples and Marton Bader added 13.
Baston slammed an alley-oop dunk to get Maccabi started at 0-2. The first foul by Parker allowed Branimir Longin to put Cibona ahead 3-2 from the free throw line. Vrankovic drilled a three-pointer and Bader scored down low to complete an 8-0 run for the hosts. Vujcic went inside to re-start Maccabi, but Bader kept going strong to send Cibona up 12-8. However, Jasikevicius connected from downtown and Baston added an easy basket for Maccabi's first lead, 12-13. Vrankovic and Parker traded triples, then Vrankovic did the same with Burstein, giving him three shots from the arc without a miss. Cibona's big men took over now but Burstein replied with a new triple for 24-26. Cibona guard Vladimir Krstic blast the quarter's eighth and last shot from the arc, however, giving the hosts a 29-27 edge after 10 minutes.
Vrankovic opened the second quarter with free throws, and Bader soon got to the line for another as Cibona extended its advantage to 34-27. A technical foul called on Maccabi coach Pini Gerhson led to 3 more Cibona free throws and a double-digit lead of 37-27. Baston broke Maccabi's dry spell also from the free throw line, but Josko Poljak went around Vujcic for a one-handed jam and then Marko Popovic added a huge triple to make it 44-31. Derrick Sharp revived Maccabi with its own triple to spark a 0-7 run that cut the difference to 44-38. Cibona's held on a couple more minutes, until Parker stepped in with 4 consecutive points and Jasikevicius finished a fastbreak to make it 46-44. A new technical foul to Maccabi's bench gave Vrankovic 4 free throw attempts, of which he made 2, as Cibona reached halftime still ahead, 50-46.
Vrankovic also opened the second half with a triple but Jasikevicius copied him twice to make it 53-52 in the blink of an eye. Burstein also joined him to give the lead back to Maccabi, 53-55, while Poljak stepped up to give two points for Cibona from the paint. Jasikevicius, however, blasted a new triple for 55-58 and Poljak remained the Cibona player scoring, this time under the rim. A trip to the stripe for Longin only allowed him a point and Burstein hit his fourth triple without miss for a 57-61 Maccabi lead. Defenses didn't allow quick plays now, but Cibona managed to score 4 points in a row to tie again, 61-61, in minute 27. The battle continued from the free-throw line as until Bader found an easy layup for a new Cibona lead, 65-63. Maccabi's big men took over now, and Vujcic and Baston restored the visitors' lead at 65-69 after 30 minutes.
Maccabi extended its run to 0-10 with 4 points to start the final quarter with a 65-73 lead. Vrankovic tried to stop the avalanche with 2 free throws, and that together with good defense allowed Cibona some options, but the hosts didn't manage use those to get closer. Jasikevicius used his, however, and with 2 more free throws made it 67-76 with 6 minutes to go. A fast layup by Popovic seemed to launch Cibona again, but a charge called on Longin and a Vujcic basket gave Maccabi a double-digit lead at last, 69-79. Vujcic scored again for 69-81 with barely 5 minutes to go and Jasikevicius continued Maccabi's momentum with a sweet layup. Burstein added free throws to cap a 2-10 tear that made it for 69-85, plenty for Maccabi's third Group D victory and clear view of the quarterinal playoffs.
Thursday, March 10, 2005