Rolling spectacularly through a memorable second half, Maccabi Tel Aviv beat mighty CSKA Moscow 93-85 in the second Euroleague semifinal on Thursday. Maccabi advances to the final to play Skipper Bologna on Saturday night at 20:30 CET. Having trailed by 11 in the first half, Maccabi closed the gap to just a point at halftime and used its surging momentum to put the game away in the fourth quarter. In a game that featured stars from top to bottom of both lineups, Anthony Parker proved to be the biggest one of all. He poured in 27 points including a pair of alley-oop dunks in the game-turning third quarter that almost lifted Nokia Arena off its foundation. Maccabi took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter and never let it slip below five to the finish. The game-breaker was Tal Burstein's triple with 2:30 left, giving Maccabi its biggest lead of the game, 80-68, after which CSKA could not pull within striking distance. Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half for the winners. Nikola Vujcic added 14 more for Maccabi and Maceo Baston a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. For CSKA, Marcus Brown put up 23 points, J.R. Holden 16, Victor Alexander 12 and Sergei Monya 10. Mirsad Turkcan added a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for CSKA.
Maccabi scored the game's first basket, but CSKA dominated the next 10 minutes. Turkcan responded with a triple from the wing, and on CSKA's next possession Monya nailed another one from the same spot. CSKA swallowed up two Maccabi shots around the basket, sending a message that they would not allow easy points. Turkcan then scored on a baseline drive, giving CSKA a 2-8 lead, but Anthony Parker connected on back-to-back jumpers to make it a 6-8 game halfway through the first quarter. CSKA continued to find holes in Maccabi's defense, as Monya scored his fith point on a baseline jumpshot. Nokia Arena errupted for the first time when Baston rose up for a signature two-handed slam. Maccabi tied at 12-12 on the next possession when Parker who hit nothing but net from long range. CSKA didn't stop attacking, however.
It went on an 0-10 run keyed by spectacular baskets from Holden, plus Monya's second triple. Maccabi took a timeout with 1:40 remaining in the first quarter, trailing 12-20. Maccabi scored on its next two possessions, but couldn't cut into the lead. Each time Maccabi hit a shot, CSKA responded with a basket of its own. The quarter ended with an amazing triple by Brown from 8 meters that set the score at 18-27. CSKA veteran Dragan Tarlac scored to give CSKA a nine-point lead early in the second quarter, but Maccabi did not give up. Pushed by an incredible crowd, Baston followed a big three-pointer by David Bluthental with an alley-oop dunk to cut CSKA's lead to 23-29. Brown retaliated quickly, however, and drilled another long bomb from downtown. CSKA used a small lineup with twin point guards and Brown at the small forward spot, as the game turned into a physical battle. Tarlac, playing a key role off the bench, made a tip-in to restore the Russians' double-digit lead at 23-34. Maccabi had been scoreless for more than 2 minutes. Bluthental stepped up with a long two-pointer and Vujcic added free throws for a 27-34 score as CSKA's second unit stepped on court. The loss of Brown to his third foul would hurt CSKA before the quarter ended, however. Jasikevicius made 2 free throw that capped an 8-2 Maccabi run and made it a five-point game at 31-36. Alexander drilled his trademark mid-range jumper, but nothing seemed to stop the Israeli champs, as a tip-in by Baston brought the hosts within 35-38 after 18 minutes. A carousel of free throws followed, in which youngster Yotan Halperin made 4 for Maccabi, pulling the home team to within 41-42 before the halftime buzzer.
CSKA came out of the lockers and got back-to-back baskets by Alexander and Holden to extend its lead 41-46, but from that point onwards, little went right for the visitors. Maccabi got back on track with a three-pointer by Jasikevicius while Parker made a putback to make it 46-46. Maccabi took its first lead since the game's very first shot at 49-48, on a Parker free-throw. They would not reliquish the lead for the remainder of the game. Another easy basket by Parker forced a CSKA timeout. while Maccabi fans celebrated the change in momentum. There was more fun to come. Jasikevicius connected with Parker on a pair of spectacular alley-oop dunks that almost brought down the house. Brown gave CSKA some fresh air with a three-point play, but Maccabi was unstoppable in both ends of the court. Jasikevicius followed 2 free throws by Vujcic with a bomb from downtown, extending his team's lead to 58-51. CSKA stayed in the game thanks to a driving layup by Holden and 2 foul shots by Theo Papaloukas made it a three-point game at 58-55. Vujcic stepped up for Maccabi with 4 quick points as he and Maccabi matched very physical. Even with Turkcan rebounding on both ends of the floor, Maccabi kept a 62-55 lead entering the fourth.
Gur Shelef opened the final period with a reverse layup. Brown brought CSKA back to life with his third three-pointer of the game, but only CSKA's first after 10 misses since the first quarter. Brown's three ignited a 2-7 run in which Papaloukas added a layup and 2 free throws, enough to make it a four-point game at 66-62 with more than 6 minutes to go. Bluthental stepped up in crunch time with a five-meter jumper. Alexander and Turkcan combined for 4 points to keep the Russian champs into the game at 70-66. Maccabi looked to Parker, who made his second three-pointer, after which the play started getting physical on both ends of the court. Maccabi had a different level of intensity, however, grabbing two offensive rebounds in the same play for a third-chance layup by Baston, while 2 free throws by Jasikevicius off a midcourt steal gave Maccabi a 77-68 lead with less than 3 minutes to go. CSKA called timeout to put a small lineup on the floor, with Monya at power forward, but it didn't work. Burstein then drilled a three-pointer that was the game-breaker, extending Maccabi's lead to double digits for the first time, 80-68. CSKA had no other option than shooting threes, but even when Alexander and Brown combined on 3 hits from downtown, Maccabi made smart choices on offense, sending Jasikevicius and Vujcic to the line at every opportunity. Maccabi made 9 of 10 free throws in less than a minute, enough to prevent any kind of comeback. The local fans erupted in joy in the final minute, as the outcome was clear and Maccabi returned to the Euroleague final!
Thursday, April 29, 2004