Maccabi Tel Aviv Guard Norris Cole .
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv has opened a Euroleague campaign with two straight wins for the first time since 2012, beating Baskonia Vitoria 74-68 at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night to move to 2-0.
After defeating Bamberg in Germany last week, Maccabi took a nine-point gap into the break on Thursday following an impressive first half. The yellow- and-blue allowed Baskonia back into the game, but never squandered the lead, with Norris Cole leading the team with 24 points.
The 29-year-old, who won two NBA titles with the Miami Heat in his first two seasons in the league and has played a total of 360 NBA games over the previous six seasons, was limited for much of the preseason due to injuries and only had six points in both the BSL and Euroleague openers.
He scored 17 points in 20 minutes against Bnei Herzliya in BSL action on Sunday and was even better against Baskonia.
DeShaun Thomas added 17 points for Maccabi, which hosts Olympiacos in its next Euroleague game on Tuesday.
Rodrigue Beaubois had 22 points for Baskonia, which dropped to 0-2.
“They were coming back and we needed someone to make a play and I want to be the guy who makes those plays,” said Cole.
After undergoing a complete overhaul during the summer following a couple of bitterly disappointing campaigns, there were as many question marks as ever surrounding Maccabi’s prospects.
Winning the preseason Winner Cup helped settle some nerves at Maccabi, but it was the three double-digit victories in BSL and Euroleague action that had the yellow-and-blue brimming with confidence ahead of Thursday’s clash.
Maccabi once more got off to a slow start though, with a 9-0 run to end the first period, capped by a Cole three-pointer, ultimately giving the hosts a three-point edge (19-16) after 10 minutes. The yellow-and-blue scored nine of the first 11 points of the second quarter to extend its margin to double-digits (28- 18) and looked to be in control at the break, leading 39-30.
Maccabi took its gap to 14 points (48-34) midway through the third frame, but lost its focus on the defensive end in the final five minutes of the period, with Baskonia scoring 19 points to close within just three points (56-53) with 10 minutes to play.
The hosts gave themselves some breathing room with six straight points (64-55), but would score just two more points in the next three minutes, allowing the Spaniards to cut the deficit to just two points (66-64) with three minutes to play. But Maccabi maintained its composure and Cole ensured the yellow-and-blue held on for the win.