When a game features 22 lead changes and 15 ties, and no team leads by more than 8 points during the 40 minutes, it is only fitting that the decision comes down to the final possession, as was the case in Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv's 77-78 road win at Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.
"The most important thing for me is that my players did not give up at the end when Fener had a lead," said Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopolous, whose players had another resilient effort that produced a victory.
Maccabi led for the first 9 minutes of the final quarter, only to see Fenerbahce rally and go in front 76-75 on a Leo Westermann's triple with 1:05 left. After Tyler Dorsey put Maccabi back in front, Kostas Sloukas made 2 free throws with just 4.0 seconds showing on the clock.
But the hero at the end was Maccabi big man Othello Hunter, who scored a game-winning layup in traffic with 2.6 seconds to go. He went up high to grab an inbounds lob pass from Angelo Caloiaro and score against Malcolm Thomas, who never had a chance.
"I just tried to be focused," Hunter said post-game. "I had let Westermann shoot a triple in front of me, so I was kind of like, 'Man, that was a mistake.'"
So, if Hunter felt he needed to redeem himself, Sfairopoulos gave him the chance. The coach had installed a new end-of-clock play just recently, and Maccabi didn't wait long to use it.
"We actually just put that play in, I wanna say a week ago, and it came at the right time," Aaron Jackson explained courtside. "Coach called it up and drew it perfect. A good inbound pass, and [Othello] had a great finish there."
Caloiaro's pinpoint pass from the opposite sideline actually flew over the rim to where Hunter had established position against Thomas. Hauling in the high pass was the toughest part, after which Hunter made the basket look easy.
"It was a perfect scenario and I just tried to execute," Hunter added.
The win capped a perfect 2-0 double-round week for Maccabi, which erased a two-game deficit behind CSKA Moscow; they now share the fourth place, the last one that brings with it home-court advantage in the playoffs.