Maccabi defense holds off Baskonia
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv fought hard to pull out a 63-67 road win at TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz on Thursday night. It is the first time Maccabi won back-to-back games, improving its record to 5-8 - just two wins back behind the eighth place in the standings, while Baskonia dropped to 6-6 on the season. Baskonia had a double-digit lead in the first half, but Maccabi quickly rallied and the teams traded blows the rest of the way. Neither team had a lead bigger than 5 points in the second half and Maccabi stepped up defensively, holding the hosts to just 9 points in the final quarter to protect its slim lead. Tyler Dorsey led Maccabi with 15 points, including game-clinching free throws with 15 seconds to go. Othello Hunter added 12 points and Chris Jones netted 10 in a winning effort. Achille Polonara was everywhere for Baskonia with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks and 2 steals. Youssoupha Fall collected 14 points plus 6 rebounds and Pierria Henry had 11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in a losing effort.
Scottie Wilbekin opened the game with a triple, but the hosts scored the next 7 points with Tadas Sedekerskis hitting his first three of the season. Ante Zizic and Dragan Bender briefly got Maccabi going, tying the score at 9-9, but the hosts stormed ahead with a 9-0 run during which Polonara strung together 7 straight points, including a triple and a fastbreak alley-oop. Neither team scored for more than 3 minutes before Elijah Bryant hit a corner triple for Maccabi, but Tonye Jekiri's basket at the end of the first and Henry's floater to start the second opened a 22-12 margin. However, Maccabi answered with a run of 10 unanswered points, sparked by back-to-back triples from Dorsey and Yovel Zoosman. Also stepping up was Hunter with 6 points, offensive boards and delivering a big block as Maccabi went in front 24-28. Alec Peters scored a runner, but Hunter again scored inside and Dorsey nailed a right-corner triple to keep Maccabi in front. Henry scored 7 points late in the quarter for Baskonia, including a triple in the penultimate minute of the half, but the visitors went into halftime up 33-37.
Baskonia had a better start to the third quarter with Fall, Zoran Dragic and Polonara scoring all the points in an 8-2 run to restore the hosts' lead, 41-40. The teams traded close-range baskets and Baskonia found free-throw the free throw line to extend the lead 48-44 midway through the third. But Angelo Caloiaro and Jones sunk back-to-back threes to get Maccabi back in front. Jones and Caloiaro also each added a close-range basket to help Maccabi take a 54-56 lead into the third quarter. Baskets were few and far between at the start of the fourth, with a put-back from Rokas Giedraitis on one end and a triple from Jones on the other the only baskets in the first 4 minutes. Hunter's layup on Wilbekin's assist made it 56-61. Peters and Polonara got Baskonia back within a single point, but a runner from Bryant and Dorsey's driving layup made it 60-65. Polonara hit a triple with 1:54 to go as it was clear the game will go down to the wire, but the hosts never scored again as Dorsey's free throws with 15 seconds left sealed the outcome.
Maccabi's 2-16 run early in the second quarter did not decide the game, but it did turn a 10-point deficit into a 24-28 lead and it put Maccabi in control after a slow start.
During that run, Othello Hunter scored 8 of his 12 points and also had 3 of his 4 offensive rebounds plus a blocked shot. He accumulated a PIR of 15 during that stretch, changing the outlook of the game.
No Maccabi starter scored more than 5 points, which was how many points Scottie Wilbekin and Elijah Bryant each had in this game. But the visitors' bench stepped up, outscoring Baskonia's bench 49-13.
Youssoupha Fall was a force in the paint for Baskonia in the first three quarters. He had 14 points on 4-for-4 two-point shooting, made 6 of 6 foul shots and pulled down 6 rebounds. But he committed his fourth personal foul with 2.1 seconds left in third quarter and never returned to the game. Baskonia had fantastic all-round efforts from Achille Polonara and Pierria Henry who combined for 26 points and 13 rebounds. Polonara had 5 blocks, Henry had 4 steals, but it was not enough for the hosts.
Next week brings a two-round week in the EuroLeague and Baskonia will already be in action on Tuesday when it visits Zalgiris Kaunas, while Maccabi plays a day later on the road at LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.
Thursday, December 10, 2020