Maccabi edged Zalgiris 68-71
An entertaining showdown took place in Kaunas on Thursday evening and when the dust settled, Maccabi Electra was not only victorious, but had already sealed its ticket to the Top 16, thanks to a 68-71 decision against Zalgiris. In a game marked by hard defenses, both teams dominated the game at times and both had significant leads. In the final minutes it looked like Zalgiris had the upper hand, but a mistake between Tomas Delininkaitis and Mirza Begic and a huge three by Sportingbet MVP of November Chuck Eidosn, allowed the guests to escape with the win. Now, in the Group A standings, Maccabi stands a top with a 6-1 record, good for Top 16 passage, while Zalgiris will still have to wait with its 4-3 and three games to go, tied with Partizan mt:s. Sofoklis Schortsanitis led the winners from the paint with his 22 points and 6 rebounds while Doron Perkins followed with 20 and 7. For Zalgiris, four players chipped in with 10 points apiece: Martynas Pocius, Mantas Kalnietis, Tomas Delininkaitis and Mirza Begic.
In a great atmosphere in Kaunas, Mantas Kalnietis drove to the basket to start the score but Doron Perkins replied for Maccabi with a three. Both teams started looking inside for their big men, but Zalgiri's
defense had the upper hand forcing Maccabi to play long attacks, not always with good results. Dainius Salenga rained a three for 7-3 and then, the guests finally found Big Sofo for four straight points in
the paint to keep Maccabi in the race. However, a couple defensive mistakes by the guests were used by Zalgiris as Tomas Delininkaitis hit a layup and a three for the 14-7 that forced the first timeout by
coach David Blatt. The break proved effective for Maccabi as after that, the run was 0-9 for the guests. Improved defense on Maccabi side benefitted also from a struggling Paulius Jankunas in offense for
Zalgiris. Fast offensive plays by the guests wnded with Sportingbet November MVP Chuck Eidson hitting five points in a row including a three-point play to make it 14-16. Luckily for Zalgiris, things started
running again when Martynas Pocius hit a three. In the remaining 90 seconds it was all Zalgiris as Mirza Begic hit an uncontested layup at the end of the first quarter for 21-18.
Begic also put a start to the second quarter as Schortsanitis was back on court for Maccabi to try to get back to the dominion of the last minutes. He soon scored for the 23-20 and when David Blu and Tadas
Klimavicius traded threes the score climbed to 28-23. The Zalgiris defense never lowered its arms forcing the Maccabi turnovers, but same thing happened too often on the other side as the game was
progressing at a fast tempo. Maccabi was having some open shots now, but the ball was not going in and Zalgiris controlled the defensive rebound with not much opposition. Until Eidson fed Lior Eliyahu for a
layup, there were no points in the game for almost four minutes, and now the guests got closer at 28-25. The defensive clinic Eidson was putting together was simply superb, and his teammates tried to honor
it as Sofo tipped in a ball for the 28-26. The scoring run was up to 0-6 when Eliyahu put Maccabi back in the driver's seat, 28-29. Travis Watson finally broke almost 6 scoreless minutes by Zalgiris with one
free throw and soon Delininkaitis hit a three on Eliyahu's face to make it 32-31. However, Big Sofo was moving well in the paint as he scored again to turn the score again. Watson hit two more free throws
for Zalgiris but a crossover dribble and a tomahawk dunk by Jeremy Pargo, put an end to the first half with a 34-35 Maccabi lead.
The second half started at full intensity just like the first one ha ended. Maccabi seemd to be more in control at this point with Sofo dominating in the paint in offense, displaying all his moved to keep
adding points to his column. Maccabi defens was also forcing Zalgiris to some bad shot situations allowing the gusts to make it 36-42 when Eidson had his fourth steal and fed Perkins for an easy layup.
Despite smothering defenses in static attack, both teams were trying to run and Klimavicius drove inside to give some air to his team. Big men were getting most of the cake this time but Kalnietis appeared
with a layup to make it 42-46 for the guests. An unsportsmanlike foul called on Hendrix was not used to its best by Zalgiris but soon another was called on Perkins. However, the same thing happened again
with Zalgiris only hitting one free throw out of the situation as Perkins stepped up as the main man in Maccabi now. His four straight points managed to stop Milaknis' three, but Pocius blasted a new one for
the hosts, and as the ball was falling in a foul called on Blu allowed Jankunas to go to the charity line to hit both and make it 52-50. Perkins was still the man in the gusts as his free throws kept the
team in the game now, when Zalgiris' defense left no room or time to Maccabi players to take the right decisions. It was a new Perkins free throw that left things at a 56-53 Zalgiris edge after three
quarters, with Perkins having scored the last seven points of Maccabi.
After three minutes in the decisive quarter, only Salenga had managed to score a basket for Zalgiris. Both defenses and the uber speed of both teams in offense never allowed for the ball to fall in the right
place. Blu finally broke the Maccabi drought with a free throw and then a huge pressure forced the 8-second violation on Zalgiris. Maccabi was not able to find the rim in this first half of the last period
while Zalgiris managed to chain two straight baskets for the 4-0 run capped in a fastbreak by Kalnietis to make it an 8-point game, 62-54. Big Sofo finally appeared for the guests with a big three-point play
to give some air to his team, but Kalnietis had a swift reply to keep Zalgiris at a safe distance. The hosts seemed to be managing the clock now, with three minutes left, but Pargo attacked the basket to make it sure that Maccabi was still alive. Despite having a 23-11 in the turnovers battle, Zalgiris was still holding up. With 90 seconds to go, the score was 66-61 and the ball was in Maccabi's hands. Pargo attacked the rim again to make it a three-point game, and in the next play DeJuan Collins turned the ball over again. In the next play, Sofo was fouled to score only one making it 66-64. With 42 second to go, Pargo found Sofo again inside for another Zalgiris foul. Again, only went in and the hosts dominated by one point, 66-65, but in the next attack, Schortsanitis again stole the ball to Kalnietis and with a transition, Big Sofo found himself under the basket scoring for a Maccabi lead, 66-67, and 20 seconds to go. Pocius stepped up and attacked the basket with a reverse layup that brought the crowd to its feet and the game into another timeout. In static offense, Perkins opened to the wing for Eidson who stepped up and nailed just Maccabi's third triple after 16 attempts in the game for 68-70. Another timeout with 10 seconds to go set the stage for the final play. Miscommunication between Delininkaitis and Begic however, made the ball go directly off bounds giving Maccabi the ball again. The game was sealed when Blu went to the line and hit only the first attempt but then stole the final ball with less than three seconds to go to put Maccabi directly into the Top 16.
Thursday, December 2, 2010