Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv held on for a nail-biting 85-83 win over Partizan Belgrade on Thursday night at Nokia Arena. Maccabi captain Derrick Sharp scored a season-high 22 points to lead Maccabi to its 13th straight home win. The Israeli champs improved to 6-3 in Group B, cementing their hold on second place. Partizan dropped to 4-5, joining Cibona in a tie for fourth. The game was defined by a pair of big runs, which led to the breath-taking finish. Partizan dominated early, scoring 14 straight points in the opening minutes to take a 3-18 lead, which held up for the rest of the half. Partizan led 34-41 at halftime, but Sharp shined as Maccabi reeled off 18 straight in the third to take the lead for good. But Partizan never quit, riding the shoulders of Predrag Drobnjak and Uros Tripkovic to get back in the game. Tripkovic made a pair of clutch free throws, while Simas Jasaitas went 2-for-4 from the line in the last 30 seconds. Vonteego Cummings took the last ball and went for the win, but his buzzer-beating three bounced out, allowing Maccabi to celebrate. Nikola Vujcic added 15 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high 5 blocks, Yotam Halperin scored 14, Jasaitas 11 and Will Bynum 10. Drobnjak had 23 points and and a season-high 16 rebounds, Tripkovic scored a season-high 20 and Kosta Perovic added 12.
Partizan won the opening tip, but both teams have good looks at the basket before Kosta Perovic scored the first points of the game in the paint for Partizan. After Will Bynum missed a jumper, Vujcic swatted Dejan Borovnjak's shot leading to a fast-break opportunity for Maccabi. But Cumming picked Halperin's pocket, leading to a Borovnjak layup as the visitors set the tone. Halperin finally got Maccabi on the scoreboard with a triple, but Partizan was now coasting. Milenko Tepic and Cummings fired in threes as Partizan started to pull away. Even after Maccabi coach Neven Spahija took a timeout, Maccabi looked flat, with Drobnjak hitting a mid-range jumper, Dusan Kecman a three and Perovic adding three the hard way to cap an incredible 0-14 Patizan blitz that gave the visitors a 3-18 lead. Bynum finally gat the home crowd going with a three and later a pair from the line as Partizan cooled off. Sharp also connected from the line as Maccabi drew to within 10-18, but a Drobnjak hoop and an Tripkovic jumper made it 10-22 after 10 minutes.
Tripkovic started the second period with a basket before Halperin erased it with a three. Maccabi gained some momentum when Novica Velickovic fouled Vujcic away from the ball as Sharp made a three, giving the yellow-and-blue a chance for 5 points on one play – which they took full advantage of. On the next trip downcourt, Simas Jasaitas drained a three as Maccabi closed to within 23-29. Cummings came right back with a runner in the lane, however Maccabi was back. Vujcic dropped in a hook shot to make it 27-31, causing Partizan coach Dusko Vujosevic to call timeout. A Perovic dunk helped Partizan back to a 29-35 lead as the team started to trade baskets. Cummings put his team up 8 with a spectacular slam in transition followed by a jumper, but Vujic made one from the line for a 34-41 halftime scoreline.
Halperin's third three of the game started the second half, but Maccabi couldn't get over the hump and Tripkovic put 4 straight points on the board. Slowly Maccabi found its way on defense and then offense, with baskets from Sharp and Vujcic bringing the hosts within 2. Sharp then tied the game with an off-balance jumper, drawing a foul and making the resulting free throw to give Maccabi its first lead, 46-45. Vujcic followed with a three, stretching the run to 12 unanswered points and putting Tel Aviv in the driver's seat. By the time Drobnjak had converted a pair of free throws, Maccabi had completed an 18-0 run, led 53-45 and looked comfortable. Partizan took time to recover, as Maccabi maintained a 60-53 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Bynum's first three gave Maccabi its first double-figure lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Partizan bounced right back as Drobnjak converted a three-point play and then took a steal in for a slam to cut the deficit in half. Jamie Arnold scored back-to-back baskets in the paint, but Tripkovic was waiting to erupt. He took a layup coast-to-coast and drilled a pair of threes as Partizan climbed back to 69-66. Halperin came back with a three, but this time it was Luka Bogdanovic's turn from downtown as the stubborn Serbian champs wouldn't let go. Tripkovic carried his team within 1 with a baseline layin, before Sharp scored his 20th point on a three-point play with four minutes to go that made it 75-71. Bogdanovic drew a foul and two from the line, but Jasaitas's three ignited the crowd once more. Partizan took a timeout to plot out the last three minutes, but Perovic was called for traveling on the ensuing play and an offensive foul on the next one, but Belgrade stood tall on defense. Perovic then converted a three-point play to make it 78-76 with 2 minutes to go. Sharon Shason drilled a clutch three, but also fouled out right after, allowing Drobnjak to keep the Partizan dream alive from the line. Sharp converted from the line, but Drobnjak made another three. Strong team defense left Maccabi without a shot and got Partizan the ball with 24 seconds to go and trailing by 3. Maccabi fouled Cummings, who made one but missed the second with 18.7 seconds remaining. Partizan immediately hacked Jasaitas, who made just one and Tripkovic then converted a pair from the line to make it 84-83 with 11.7 seconds left. Jasaitas again made only one from the line and Partizan took the ball and went for the win, but Cummings's three bounced out as the buzzer sounded to the delight of the fans.