Maccabi Tel Aviv clinched Euroleague Group B with little trouble on Thursday
night, thrashing Alba Berlin 78-62 at Nokia Arena to finish the regular season
with an 8-2 record.
A 23-2 run effectively secured Maccabi’s win by the
halftime break (48-24), with the yellow- and- blue easily managing without the
sick Devin Smith and suspended Guy Pnini.
Ricky Hickman led five Maccabi
players in double-figures with 17 points, while David Logan scored 15, Yogev
Ohayon added 14 and Sylven Landesberg more than doubled his total in the first
nine Euroleague games of the season with 13 points.
Deon Thompson had 16
points and 10 rebounds for Alba.
Berlin put up a fight for much of the
first quarter, with a Derrick Byars basket with 2:27 to play in the period
bringing the visitors within a single point (14-13).
would hold Alba to just two points in the next seven-and-a-half minutes, going
on a 23-2 run.
Five straight points by Logan opened a double-digit gap
(23- 13) by the end of the first frame, with five points by Ohayon capping the
surge (37-15) and essentially rendering the entire second half as garbage time,
despite some lax minutes.
The yellow-and-blue made the most of a
relatively weak regular season group, but matters will be exceedingly more
difficult in the Top 16, which has a new format this season.
will be split into two groups of eight, with the best four to progress to the
quarterfinal playoffs after a 14-game round-robin, which begins on December 27
and runs until April 5.
Maccabi hopes to bolster its roster ahead of the
start of the Top 16, with former forward Richard Hendrix one of the names being
mentioned in connection with the club.
Tel Aviv is also set to welcome
back Pnini sometime during the Top 16.
Maccabi suspended Pnini until
further notice, stripped him of the captaincy and fined him NIS 100,000 after he
was caught calling Hapoel Tel Aviv player Jonathan Skjoldebrand a Nazi during
last week’s derby.
However, Pnini will be able to return to play in the
BSL as soon as January 6 after he agreed to a plea bargain with the Israel
Basketball Association on Thursday.
The IBA suspended Pnini for four
games, fined him NIS 10,000 and sentenced him to volunteer 40 hours at Yad
Vashem or another Holocaust related institution.