Laboral Kutxa survives late Maccabi comeback
Laboral Kutxa Vitoria held on to beat Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv 84-80 in a thriller at Fernando Buesa Arena in both team’s Turkish Airlines Euroleague opener. The hosts took charge in the first half and Fernando San Emeterio’s triple at the second-quarter buzzer gave Vitoria a 48-38 lead to celebrate at the break. The lead peaked at 11 in the third before Joe Ingles heated up for Maccabi and almost single-handedly carried his team back. It was a 1-point game through three quarters and Maccabi grabbed the lead in the fourth. It was tied with two minutes to go, but the visitors came up empty on offense, while the hosts got a pair of big buckets from Thomas Huertel, which proved to be the difference. Lamont Hamilton paced Laboral with 15 points and 8 rebounds, Tibor Pleiss added 12 and 8, San Emeterio also scored 12 and Huertel recorded 11 points and 5 assists. Ricky Hickman led Maccabi with 20 points, Ingles added 14 and Yogev Ohayon had 11 points and 5 assists in defeat.
First quarter:Nocioni helps Laboral race to early leads
Andres Nocioni opened fire with a nice fast-break layup against David Blu, followed with an identical play by Walter Hodge for an early 4-0 Laboral lead. Maccabi tried to find Sofoklis Schortsianitis inside, but unsuccessfully. Tyrese Rice was the first one to score for the yellows, before Joe Ingles hit a nice corner jump shot to tie it after three minutes. Hamilton returned the lead to Laboral with a basket-plus-foul play, as both teams started to exchange baskets and misses to reach the middle of the quarter with a tight score, 9-8. Nocioni hit the first three of the night to build a 4-point edge, but Maccabi was not scared of hosts’ intensity and responded quickly to prevent the hosts from pulling away. Devin Smith capped a great ball movement with a bank shot that tied the game again, 12-12, but missed a three right after that that allowed Hodge to put the home team ahead once again. Fabien Causeur followed him with a pair of free throws, as both coached started to use their bench player looking for fresh air. Laboral showed great defensive effort, controlling the board and running quick transitions, which allowed them to build a comfortable 8-point edge, behind points by Causeur, Hodge and Pleiss. Blatt looked for a reaction calling for a timeout, but the scenario didn’t change very much as he visitors finished the first quarter trailing 24-18.
Second quarter: San Emeterio boosts hosts to double-digit lead
Shawn James and Thomas Kelati exchanged baskets to open the second quarter, while Pleiss kept showing skills by hitting a 5-meter jump-shot to recover an 8-point lead for Laboral. Maccabi wing players took advantage of Schortsianitis’s work inside for a 0-5 run that brought Maccabi within 28-25. Jelinek came to the rescue finishing another fastbreak, followed by Pleiss, who scored twice from the free throw line and capped a nice cut to the basket with a two handed dunk to make it 34-25 midway through the quarter. Blatt stopped the game again, worried by how easy the hosts were running the court and getting easy baskets. The break didn’t work as expected for the yellows, though, as their offense was unable to find open situations for easy shots. Hickman, with an acrobatic layup, and Ingles, who nailed the first trey of the night for the visitors, turned the lights on in Maccabi to reduce the deficit to 38-32. A reaction came almost immediately after a Scariolo time out, as Heurtel and San Emeterio combined for 5 points in a row that returned the game to its previous status. Maccabi adjusted its defense and kept Laboral scoreless for almost three minutes, good enough to reduce the deficit to 43-38 entering the last minute. Hamilton ended the drought for the hosts with a powerful two-handed dunk, as Davis missed a three that gave the last ball to the home team with 4 seconds to go. Laboral Kutxa made great profit of such short time, finding San Emeterio at the three-point line to send the game to the halftime with a double digit home lead, 48-38.
Third quarter: Ingles sparks Maccabi rally
Rice drove inside and finished a very difficult move with a great layup early after the break, but nobody else was able to find the basket on either side, so the score remained 48-40 three minutes into the second half. Hamilton fed Nocioni inside, which turned into a 2 free throws by the Argentinean forward and finished the home team’s drought. Schortsanitis scored inside on the next play, but Hamilton drew an unsportsmanlike foul on Blu that returned a 9-point lead to the hosts. That play seemed to awake both the home team and fans, as San Emeterio scored again on the fastbreak to set a game-high 11 point margin. Smith showed calm, though, scoring a corner three that prevented the yellows from losing contact with the game. Hickman followed him with 3 free throws to bring his team within 53-48 midway through the quarter, but Hamilton showed up unexpectedly from the three-point line to give some breathing room to the hosts. The Laboral center continued hurting the visiting frontcourt, adding 2 more points from the line to re-build a double digit margin, 58-48. Ingles came up big with 5 consecutive points, including a long three, keeping the flame alive for the visitors. Causeur found the rim after that, but Ingles kept rocking with another bank shot, followed by Ohayon to reduce the gap to just 60-57, entering the last minute. San Emeterio made 2 from the line, while James made profit of a great assist from Ohayon to keep hurting the home defense. A last acrobatic layup by Smith made it even tighter, 62-61, at the end of the third quarter.
Fourth quarter: Huertel makes big baskets late
A new game started, and the first one to realize that was Ohayon, who gave Maccabi its first lead of the night with a layup. Nocioni responded quickly, but both teams struggled to hit from long distance as defenses prevailed over offenses and the game turned more and more physical. Sylven Landesberg was the next one to add points, once again under the basket, while Jelinek broke the trend and hit from downtown to return the lead to Laboral, 67-65. Landesberg hit again fed by Schortsianitis to tie it, but nerves seemed to take over on both sides, turning each possession into a battle. Hickman came up big and hit a three, followed by a layup by Jelinek, but Maccabi looked stronger than ever. Landesberg hit twice from the line to consolidate a slim margin, 69-72, midway through the last quarter, right before Scariolo called for a timeout. Heurtel added 2 free throws, as Laboral switched to zone defense that was useless against Ohayon’s open three pointer . Hamilton turned off the red lights for the home team with a lucky shot, while Heurtel converted a three -point play that brought fans to their feet and got the lead back to Vitoria, 76-75, with three minutes to go. Maccabi kept hurting from the corner with another triple by Hickman, but San Emeterio scored to tie it again, 78-78, with just two minutes to go. Heurtel remained hot, as was the atmosphere at Buesa Arena. A good defensive play by Laboral forced an airball by the yellows, which was heavily punished again by Huertel with another layup off-the-drive. Blatt looked for a timeout to reduce the 4-point deficit, but the clock showed just 48’’ to play. Ohayon capped a highlight move with a nice layup to make it 82-80, with 37’’ left, giving his team a chance to stay alive. The yellows were close to recovering the ball, but Hamilton hit a key corner jumper to beat the shot-clock and increase the advantage to 4 points with less than 15’’ to play. Ingles’s last attempt didn’t find the net, and Laboral had just to grab the rebound and let the time pass to seal its first Euroleague win of the season.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Natxo Mendaza, Vitoria