The newest Zvika Sherf era at Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv got off to the best possible start on Thursday night with a 68-83 road win over Efes Pilsen at the Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. Sherf, who began his fifth term on the perennial Israeli champs’ bench on Tuesday after Oded Kattash resigned as Maccabi head coach, inspired his troops to a big win. Maccabi improved to 7-3 and is now alone in third place in the Group B standings – only one win behind the co-leaders. Maccabi hosts co-leader Unicaja in Tel Aviv next week. Meanwhile Efes lost a Euroleague game at home for the first time this season and slipped to 6-4. Head coach David Blatt’s charges are now tied with Aris TT Bank for fourth place and their chances to get any higher lessened since they have now lost twice to Maccabi. Maccabi enjoyed a stellar night from its big men as Terence Morris turned in 16 points and 19 rebounds and the visitors won the battle of the boards 28-38. Maccabi trailed by 9 late in the first period, but Esteban Batista played a big role in a 0-15 run that bridged the first two periods and gave Maccabi a lead that it never relinquished. Efes never quit and despite trailing by 11 at halftime and 16 early in the second half, got within 54-62 heading into the fourth quarter. However Morris capped a 0-7 start to the fourth with a triple and Maccabi coasted the rest of the way for a big win. Marcus Fizer added 16 points in 20 minutes for Maccabi, while Will Bynum finished with 14 and Yotam Halperin scored 12 and dished 4 assists. Scoonie Penn scored a Euroleague career-high 30 points for Efes, which was without Serkan Erdogan and Drew Nicholas due to injury. Kenny Gregory added 14 in defeat.
It was a balanced start for both sides as Vonteego Cummings opened the scoring race. Efes responded with a 6-0 spurt behind Gregory and Penn. Kerem Gonlum’s dunk made it 11-7 and Gregory’s three-pointer midway through the period gave Efes a 5-point lead. Cummings answered with 3 points and Halperin’s fade away jumper leveled the score for the first time at 14-14. Efes then used Maccabi’s missed attempts and turnovers for 9 unanswered points from Gregory, Penn and Ender Arslan to take a promising lead. However Maccabi needed just 66 seconds to answer with an 0-8 run. In the final minute of the period, a David Bluthenthal three-pointer followed by a Halperin jumper and finally Bynum’s unbelievable three pointer from halfcourt just before the buzzer ended the first quarter with the hosts ahead 23-22.
Batista put Maccabi ahead at the beginning of the second quarter, and he soon hit another layup to complete a 0-15 Maccabi charge for a 23-29 lead. Batista was the key for Maccabi’s offensive as he caused trouble for the Efes defense on every touch. Midway through the period, Batista increased the lead to 6 points once again and then Alex Garcia stretched it to 9 points with a three-pointer. Efes tried to stand strong on offence through Penn, while Bynum and Garcia kept the difference at the same level for Tel Aviv. Halperin gave a bonus to Maccabi from the free throw line to help his team to go to the dressing rooms leading 34-45.
Maccabi had an impressive start to the second half. Morris decorated his great efforts on defense with a triple to put the visitors up 34-50. Meanwhile Efes struggled to score inside and just tried to push the game with the individual efforts of Gregory and Penn. Loren Woods tried to get the hosts going after Marcus Fizer’s fourth foul came just four minutes into the third quarter. Efes put a little pressure on the game and Woods made it 48-58 with a dunk on Morris. Penn’s single free throw cut the gap to 52-60. Ander Hutson missed a tip in the last second of the period and the teams went into the fourth quarter with a 54-62 scoreline.
Maccabi’s winning desire showed itself at the beginning of the last quarter too. Morris’s triple completed a 0-7 start for Maccabi to kill the hopes of Efes. The visitors eased the game by controlling the rebounds and didn’t allow Efes’s comeback to get within more than 8 points. A Morris slam gave Maccabi its biggest lead, 59-76. Penn still pushed Efes on and hit a triple to make it 68-77 with two minutes to go, but Maccabi scored the game’s last 6 points to ice an important road win.
Thursday, January 3, 2008