The first game in almost 10 years between two historic rivals proved worth the wait as doubt overtime was needed before Maccabi survived 96-95 against visiting Armani Jeans Milano Will Solomon drilled a three-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining in the 50th minute to win it for the two-time defending champions. Milano went on top with a big second quarter, Nikola Vujcic scored 16 of his 26 in the third as Maccabi stormed back. Massimo Bulleri tied the game with 27 seconds left in regulation time, which ended 75-75. Tal Burstein tied the game at 83-83 with 15 seconds left in the first OT and Bulleri missed a chance to win it with 6 seconds remaining. Bulleri led Milano with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Dante Calabria added 15 and Giacomo Galanda 14. Derrick Sharp had 20, and Solomon and Baston had 13 apiece for the winning side.
Baston, the Week 4 MVP, won the tip but missed the first shot, leaving Shumpert to score the game's first points for Milano. It took nearly 2 minutes before Vujcic rattled in a hook shot to get Maccabi on the scoreboard. As the game developed, Milano settled for long-range jump shots that only Massimo Bulleri hit, while Maccabi took the ball to the hoop and drew fouls on three straight plays before captain Derrick Sharp, starting in place of Tal Burstein, drilled a three-pointer to make it 10-5. Milano coach Lino Lardo called timeout after his team's first turnover, but it was Maccabi that came out of it strong, as Vujcic fed Baston for a two-handed jam. Shumpert made a short jumper in the lane to end Milano's scoring drought, but Solomon took a steal coast-to-coast to put Maccabi up 18-9. Fortunately for Milano, Calabria heated up with a pair of triples almost halve the difference, to 20-15, after 10 minutes.
Sharp's second three-pointer followed by reserve Yaniv Green's block of a Dusan Vukcevic shot delighted the sold-out Nokia Arena early in the second quarter, but they would be silenced a minute later. Bulleri and Vukcevic nailed consecutive triples to cut the lead to 23-21, while Sharp missed from beyond the arc and committed a turnover on the other end. Then Galanda converted a three-point play for his first points to give Milano its first lead, 23-24. The lead swayed from side to side until Diego Fajardo's jumper to beat the 24-second shot clock to put Milano up 28-32 and provoke Maccabi coach Pini Gershon to call timeout. That was followed by Sharp's third bomb from downtown, but it didn't stop Milano's momentum. Scores by Galanda, Bulleri and Fajardo pushed Milano to its biggest lead yet, 31-38. Jamie Arnold made a pair of free throws and a layup to trim the gap, but also lost the ball on a fast break with 10 seconds to go, allowing Bulleri to end the half with his second three-pointer, giving Milano a 35-40 lead at the half.
Both teams seemed to force things to start the second half, resulting in turnovers and misses. A Vujcic three-pointer helped Maccabi close the gap, but then Sharp committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Shumpert. His free throws and a Vukcevic layup helped Milano climb back up 38-44. Vujcic answered with another triple and drew a foul on the next trip downcourt. After sinking the first, he missed the second only for Baston to put it back in and tie, 44-44. The pressure seemed to get to Milano, which after another Shumpert jumper went over 5 minutes without hitting a shot Maccabi took control with 15-2 run. Even after Galanda scored to end the Milano drought, Vujcic, the star of the run with 7 points, hit again to keep Maccabi on top, 61-51. Sharp added another triple before the quarter closed with Maccabi's lead holding at 64-55.
Bulleri's three over Sharp gave Milano hope starting the fourth quarter, but the pace slowed from then, with each team plagued by turnovers. After 3 minutes, Bulleri and Galanda drilled back-to-back triples to silence the crowd and carry their team back to within 66-64. Now, however, Milano would need 3 before Shumpert scored the team's next points, during which time Solomon and Baston combined for 9 points to help Maccabi build a 75-64 lead. Just as it seemed the hosts would pull away, Calabria added a three to Shumpert's and it was a five-point game, 75-70, with 2 minutes to play. Another Bulleri blast with 1:24 left got MIlano closer, and after a seires of turnovers and misses, a Parker foul put Bulleri on the line with 27 seconds left. He ignored the ear-piercing din to swish both shots and tie 75-75. Maccabi went to Vujcic for a last shot that bounced out, as did Baston's tip-in attempt, sending the game to overtime.
Shumpert started the extra period with a triple among 4 points to put the guests up 75-79. Vujcic fed Arnold for a slam but also missed free throws that could have tied the game. With just a Parker free throw between the teams for some time, Maccabi waited until Solomon drilled a triple to take an 81-79 advantage 1:23 left. After a Milnao timeout, Bulleri's jumper bounced out, but Blair tipped it back in. And after Vujcic missed, Bulleri raced back to hit a layup that put Milano up 81-83 with 49.5 seconds remaining. After misses by Solomon and Bulleri, Burstein raced downcourt to tie it for Maccabi, 83-83 with 15 seconds left as the teams headed to a second overtime. Blair struck first now for Milano on the offensive glass, but free throws by Vujcic and Arnold quickly tied it again. Calabria and Vujcic traded three-pointers, then Calabria and Arnold and Bulleri each made just one from the line. Vujcic found Arnold underneath with 1:29 left to put Maccabi ahead 91-90. With 46.4 seconds left, Calabria regained the lead for Milano with 2 free throws – the first player to make both in either overtime - but Vujcic's shot off the glass with 22.3 left gave the lead back to Maccabi. Bulleri thought Milano had won the game when he found a wide-open Vukcevic for a three in the corner with 9 seconds on the clock, but Solomon had other plans. His triple with 2.4 seconds stole the lead and Bulleri had no miracles left as Maccabi prevailed, 96-95, after 50 minutes.
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Frankie Sachs, Tel Aviv