Mac TA’s center Sofoklis Schortsanitis .
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
For the second straight season, Maccabi Tel Aviv was blown out in the second half by CSKA Moscow in Russia, dropping to a humbling 99-80 defeat in Euroleague action on Thursday night.
Maccabi at least avoided a repeat of last season’s embarrassing 35-point thrashing in the Russian capital, which was the yellow- and-blue’s heaviest defeat in European competition in 38 years.
There were, however, plenty of similarities between Thursday’s setback and the loss in Moscow eight months ago. Maccabi was once more playing without Devin Smith and Alex Tyus, who were both out through injury, but nevertheless yet again managed to remain within seven points at the halftime break. However, for a second consecutive campaign Maccabi capitulated in the second half, with Thursday’s contest being decided by CSKA outscoring the visitors 32-13 in the third quarter.
As disappointing as Thursday’s defeat was, Maccabi will remember that it went on to beat CSKA in the Final Four semifinals on the way to the title last season just three months after the 100-65 drubbing.
“We began the game well, but then just stopped playing,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes, whose team fell to 1-1 in Group B ahead of next week’s visit to Alba Berlin. “We didn’t defend well. We can’t afford to allow 99 points. We were too soft on defense and scored poorly. At this level, against the best players in the Euroleague, when you don’t play well you lose control of the game very quickly. We need to be mentally focused for the full 40 minutes because we saw what happens when we take our foot off the gas.”
Brian Randle led Maccabi with 18 points and six rebounds, with Sylven Landesberg contributing 14 points and six boards for the yellow-and-blue, which shot just 6-of- 21 (28%) from three-point range and was out-rebounded 45-25. Jeremy Pargo, who joined Maccabi from CSKA during the summer, will not want to remember his return to Moscow after hitting just 2-of-13 field-goal attempts to finish the game with seven points.
Sonny Weems led four CSKA players in double figures with 18 points.
Maccabi looked sharp at the start of the game, with Aleks Maric even getting in the action, scoring under the basket to give the yellow-and-blue an early seven-point lead (11-4).
However, CSKA soon regained its composure and stormed back with a 10-2 run to move in front (14-13). The hosts took a twopoint margin (21-19) into the second period and a Milos Teodosic three-pointer extended Moscow’s cushion to 29-21. CSKA’s gap was still just seven points (48-41) at the end of the first half, but it steamrolled Tel Aviv in the third quarter.
The hosts opened the second half with a 13-2 run, with Teodosic’s third three of the night taking the margin to 18 points (61-43).
Matters went from bad to worse for Maccabi after that, with the yellow-and-blue seemingly losing interest and Moscow punishing every mistake.
A Weems basket midway through the third frame took the lead passed 20 points (66-45) for the first time and effectively secured the win, with CSKA’s gap reaching 26 points (80-54) by the end of the quarter.
Maccabi’s sole goal in the final 10 minutes was to limit the damage.
It did so only with partial success and was once more given plenty to mull over by the Russians.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa completed its North American tour in encouraging fashion on Wednesday night despite losing 92-85 to the Toronto Raptors. Haifa lost all four of its exhibition encounters against NBA teams, but after falling by an average 39.5 points per game in its past two contests, it almost pulled off an upset in Toronto. A 21-0 run gave Haifa a 77-72 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Greens couldn’t hold on.