Maccabi Tel Aviv center Sofoklis Schortsanitis (right) had 12 points last night, but the yellow-and-blue dropped to a surprise 66-59 loss to Alba Berlin at Yad Eliyahu Arena..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
A lethargic display saw Maccabi Tel Aviv suffer its first defeat of 2015 on Thursday night, a shock 66-59 home loss to Alba Berlin in Euroleague Top 16 action at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Maccabi had won 11 straight games over all competitions to begin the year, including five in a row in the Euroleague to move tied with Real Madrid in first place in Top 16 Group E.
However, the yellow-andblue dropped to an unexpected setback on Thursday against an Alba team which had lost four of its previous five Top 16 games.
With the Top 16 only at the halfway mark, Maccabi (5-2) will need to quickly regain the form it showed in the wins over Barcelona and Real Madrid or it could soon find itself falling behind in the battle for a topfour finish and a place in the quarterfinal playoffs.
Devin Smith led Maccabi with 17 points and nine rebounds, but the yellow-and-blue paid the price for its poor free-throw shooting, especially in the closing stages, hitting just 10-of-19 attempts from the line overall.
Jamel McLean had 18 points for Alba (3-4).
Alba dictated a slow pace from the start, and while Maccabi was more than happy with its defensive play, the yellow-and-blue struggled on offense.
A Nate Linhart basket to finish the first period at least gave the hosts the edge (16-15) and a three-pointer by the rarely used American followed by Sofoklis Schortsanitis’s basket increased the gap to eight points (23-15).
However, Maccabi couldn’t build on the momentum and Alba fought its way back and took its first lead of the second quarter (35-33) following Cliff Hammonds triple with 1:11 minutes to play.
Jeremy Pargo’s three ensured Maccabi took a lead (36-35) into the break, but the team’s passive play continued at the start of the second half, with a Reggie Redding three giving the Germans a 42-36 lead early in the third period.
Smith finally scored Maccabi’s first points of the second half almost five minutes into the third frame (42-38), but the yellow- and-blue scored only eight points in all in the quarter, and McLean’s basket off an offensive board gave Alba a six-point cushion (50-44) entering the final 10 minutes.
Maccabi finally picked up the pace at the start of the fourth period, with Pargo’s basket from beyond the arc tying the score at 53-53 with 6:30 minutes to play.
However, Maccabi never came close to hitting top gear. Berlin struggled to get shots off, but the hosts were helpless at the other end and Alex Renfore’s basket with 38 seconds to play gave Alba a four-point margin (62-58). Maccabi couldn’t recover and the yellow-and-blue was given plenty to mull over after a surprisingly dejecting display.