Nikola Vujcic was at his best on Thursday as Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv stretched its home-court winning streak to 12 with a 110-87 win over Union Olimpija Ljubljana at Nokia Arena in Israel. Vujcic recorded his second career triple-double, scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing 10 assists for Maccabi, which improved to 4-2 in Group B this season. Olimpija, which arrived in Israel only 8 hours before the game due to problems at the airport, fell to 1-5. Sharon Shason came off the bench for a career-high 19 and Jamie Arnold, starting in place of Lior Eliyahu, finished with 12 points and 14 boards. Will Bynum, Yotam Halperin and Simas Jasaitas had 12 each as well. Marko Milic led Olimpija with a career-best 23 points and 6 assists, Ender Arslan added 14, Domen Lorbek 11 and Manuchar Markoishvili and Teemu Rannikko finished with 10 apiece. The visitors remained in the picture throughout the first half, thanks to inspired play from Milic, but Maccabi opened the third quarter with a 17-3 run and ran away from that point.
Olimpija won the opening tip and scored first behind Milic, but the game needed to be stopped immediately for a few seconds as Maccabi fans lit a flare and threw streams of paper onto the court. The hosts quickly got on the board as Vujcic fed Arnold for a slam and then Simas Jasaitas drilled a triple. Milic answered for the visitors, who were showing plenty of spirit. Vujcic was masterful, running the show from the top of the key and setting up Jasaitas and Halperin for easy baskets, but Rannikko's three-point shooting and Milic's drives to the basket kept the score even at 18-18. Markoishvili scored to put the visitors on top and then Jasaitas was whistled for his third foul – an unsportsmanlike foul on Milic – which Olimpija used to take a 20-25 lead. Free throws from Vujcic and Shason for Maccabi and one from Markoishvili ended the period with the guests up 24-26.
Vujcic opened the second period with a pair from the line after grabbing and offensive rebound and drawing Milic's first foul. Shason fed Vujcic for a slam on the break to return the lead to Maccabi. Eliyahu made pretty layup and dropped in a jumper, but Arslan's three kept Olimpija within 1. After a Vujcic hook, Milic, who was carrying Olimpija on his back, scored again, but Vujcic remained Maccabi's main man with a triple. Tel Aviv coach Neven Spahija received a technical foul for arguing a call, but even that didn't change the momentum as Shason drilled one from downtown for a 39-34 Maccabi lead midway through the period. The hosts' lead got as big as 9 on Vujcic free throws and Olimpija was faced with center trouble when Hasan Rizvic was called for his fourth foul. Markoishvili got three the hard way to cut the gap to 46-40, but he too fell into foul trouble and went out. Vujcic popped a three and then Will Bynum fed the big guy for a slam on the break to push the lead to 10 for the first time and that's the way it remained at halftime, with Maccabi leading 53-43.
Maccabi came out firing, as Shason drilled a triple and Bynum added a steal and score before Rannikko got Olimpija on the board with a three. Vujcic made a hook as the lead continued to grow and he passed to Shason to bring the Maccabi advantage to 20. A Milic slam put an end to a 17-3 Maccabi run that Vujcic paced with 4 points and 4 assists. Spahija gave Vujcic a rest, but Arnold and Halperin pushed the lead to 76-48 before Rizvic scored on the offensive glass. But a Bynum three followed by an Arnold bank shot put the hosts up 31. Maccabi fans started doing the wave as Noel Felix made his first Euroleague appearance in front of the home fans. Lorbek's free throws ended the quarter with Maccabi outscoring Olimpija 28-9 to take a 81-52 lead after 30 minutes.
Felix got on the board with a short jumper and showed his enthusiasm with a goal-tending call on a Ivica Jurkovic drive. Lorbek put up a triple, but Jasaitas matched it. Bynum made it 91-57, but Jurkovic came right back to the basket. Maccabi wasn't done yet as a Green slam took the advantage to 35. Milic drove for two more before Derrick Sharp threw Felix an alley-oop slam as the final minutes turned into a highlight reel. Green took Maccabi over the 100-point mark with a free throw and al that was left to see was whether Vujcic would grab the rebound he needed to complete his second career triple-double. He did and left to a standing ovation as Maccabi celebrated another home victory.
Thursday, November 30, 2006