Maccabi Tel Aviv may have only reached the midway point of the Euroleague Top 16
on Thursday night, but it has already lost any realistic chance of advancing to
the quarterfinals after dropping to an 82-77 defeat to Barcelona at Nokia
Maccabi fell to a 2-5 record with its third home loss in Group F
and will not be guaranteed qualification for the last eight even should it win
all seven of its remaining games, which seems highly unlikely to say the
Tel Aviv remained neck-and-neck with Barca during the first half,
trailing by just two points (41-39) at the break.
However, the Spaniards
would blow the game open by scoring the first nine points of the second half and
effectively clinched the win by ending the third quarter with a 10-2 run
Ricky Hickman led Maccabi with 19 points, with Shawn James
scoring 16 and Devin Smith and Yogev Ohayon adding 11 points each for Maccabi,
which made the final score-line more respectable with a late 10-0
Ante Tomic had 18 points for Barca, with Juan Carlos Navarro and
Sarunas Jasikevicius contributing 14 points each for the Catalans, who won in
Tel Aviv for a third straight season and remained top of the group with a 6-1
Maccabi got off to the start it was hoping for, with a Smith
jumper opening a 9-2 lead after three-and-a-half minutes.
never allowed Tel Aviv out of its sight and a Navarro floater soon tied the
Two consecutive three-pointers in the final minute of the
first quarter by David Logan and Ohayon ensured Tel Aviv had the edge (22-20)
after 10 minutes and another Logan triple to start the second period took the
gap to five points.
However, a Saras inspired 10-0 run put the visitors
in the driving seat, with a three by the Lithuanian giving Barcelona a 30-25
Saras equaled his Euroleague season-best of 10 points with 3:40
still to play in the first half to open a sixpoint margin (37-31), but Barca
coach Xavi Pascual would inexplicably immediately bench him and Maccabi was down
by just two points (41-39) at the break.
After scoring just four points
in the first half, Spanish sharp-shooter Navarro was determined to get more
involved and with two straight threes he gave Barca an 11-point advantage
Maccabi managed to cut the deficit to six points (55-49), but it
would come no closer until the dying seconds. The visitors ended the period with
a 10-2 run to open a 67-53 margin, with Tomic accounting for eight of the 10
Barca took more than four minutes to score its first points of
the fourth frame, but Maccabi could only score four in the same span and the
defeat always seemed inevitable, even when Tel Aviv went on a late 10-0 run
(80-77) to save some pride in what already seems like a lost Euroleague season.