Maccabi Tel Aviv claimed a comfortable 85-65 victory over Olimpija Ljubljana in its 2009/10 Euroleague opener on Thursday night, but Pini Gershon's new roster displayed plenty of teething problems at the Nokia Arena.
Coach Gershon will be delighted with his team's winning start to the season, but he will be the first to recognize that plenty of work still needs to be done if the side is to reach the Euroleague's Final Four or even the quarterfinal playoffs.
With nine of the team's 13 players only joining the club this summer it was no surprise Maccabi looked disorganized and confused for large periods. Tel Aviv's offensive play still needs plenty of fine tuning, but Maccabi was still far too good for a short-handed Ljubljana team, which is mediocre even at the best of times.
Tel Aviv will have to play far better if it is to win at Lior Eliyahu's Caja Laboral Vitoria in its next continental game, but the good news for Gershon is that he won't be taking his team to Spain for another two weeks, giving him plenty of time to work with his side.
It may be difficult to judge Maccabi after a single Euroleague game, but what is already clearly evident is that the team will be depending on its Israeli players less than ever this season. Tel Aviv began the game with five foreigners, with no Israeli touching the ball until the second quarter. Guy Pnini was the only Israeli to play in the first half, and even he was only on court for less than five minutes.
Maciej Lampe scored on Maccabi's first possession and the hosts would never relinquish the lead. Tel Aviv was by no means impressive, but Ljubljana turned the ball over time and again, allowing Maccabi to forge ahead.
Alan Anderson's jumper opened an eight-point margin (15-7) and Andrew Wisniewski ended the quarter with five consecutive points to give the hosts and comfortable 20-10 lead after 10 minutes.
Ljubljana was no more of a threat in the second period than it was in the first and Maccabi quickly built on its early advantage. Anderson showed just why he is regarded as one of the team's main offensive weapons this season, hitting two straight three-pointers to open a 30-16 gap.
The Slovenians never gave up and Sani Becirovic scored from beyond the arc to cut his side's deficit to single-digits (32-23). However, Ljubljana would come no closer in the first half, with Maccabi leading 37-25 at halftime.
Maccabi seemed destined to cruise in the second half, but the Slovenians had no intention of going home without putting up at least a bit of a fight.
Dusan Djordjevic's three capped a 7-0 Ljubljana run to start the second half (37-30), but Maccabi would always maintain a secure cushion and still had a 10-point lead (55-45) going into the final 10 minutes.
Two minutes of the fourth quarter were all Maccabi would need to effectively clinch the win. The hosts began the frame with an 11-0 run, capped by a Doron Perkins' layup, and the remainder of the game was no more than a procession.
Anderson led Maccabi with 25 points, scoring practically at will. Wisniewski added 19 with Perkins also contributing 10 points.
Matt Walsh had 18 points for the visitors, but Ljubljana never had a chance after only hitting on eight of 28 attempts from three-point range.