Maccabi of Tel Aviv has roared back from not only an upset a week ago, but a potential one on Thursday, with the kind of one-half performance that confirms its status as one of the favorites to win the entire Euroleague. Playing at home against defensive-minded Unicaja Malaga of Spain, Maccabi exploded in the second half to register an 82-60 that certainly reminded its 10,000 of the team's recent dominance. Malaga managed to control the game in the first two periods, but it was the yellows from Tel Aviv and their 10,000 devoted fans who helped turn the game around. That is not to mention Nate Huffman, who looked like his MVP self for the first time all season in pulling down 28 points to lead the winners. Maccabi improves to 2-1 in feisty Group A, while Unicaja is down to 1-2.
In the first two quarters Unicaja played slow and forced Maccabi to play set game which was very bad for Maccabi. But in the second half Mcdonald changed the game tempo and when Maccabi started runinng she didn't stop until the end. Maccabi coach David Blatt change his starting lineup, with McDonald, Parker, Shelef, Henefeld and Huffman, a change that at least at the opening of the game did not seem to make a big difference. Without injured big man Danya Abrams, forward Milan Gurovic took the commend for the visitors in scoring 5 points as Unicaja went ahead 8-5 after 6 minutes. Unicaja continued to lead but Derrick Sharp with a three-pointer tied the game at 14-14. Unicaja managed to control the game rhythm mostly because of its strong defense. Moustapha Sonko, who did not miss a shot together with Mrsic and Gurovic, opened the lead to 8 points, 40-32, near the end of the half, but Maccabi was finally able to cut it to 37-42.
If in the first half Blatt's players couldn't stop the Malaga offense, but from the first minute of the second half it was a whole other ball game. Maccabi closed the paint and allowed Unicaja to score only 18 points. Huffman, who looked pale in the first half, reminded himself and everybody else of the dominant force he had been the last two seasons. It took Maccabi less then then 5 minutes to tie the game and from their on Maccbi didn't look back.
Thursday, October 25, 2001