The last thing Maccabi Tel Aviv needed ahead of its Euroleague opener was a defeat to Hapoel Holon.
However, the yellow-and-blue will enter its first continental contest of 2013/14 at Laboral Vitoria on Thursday night reeling from an 83-73 defeat in Holon on Monday, Tel Aviv’s first loss in a BSL season opener since 1990.
Maccabi held the initiative for much of the encounter, leading by as many as 13 points (60-47) in the third quarter.
However, Holon closed to within four points by the end of the period (65-61) and outscored Maccabi 22-8 in the final frame to record a memorable victory.
Holon was led to the win by an inspired performance from Guni Izraeli, who scored a career high 26 points, hitting six three pointers and seven of eight field goals, as well as all six of his free-throw attempts.
The veteran guard also registered seven assists in Holon’s first win over Maccabi since the 2007/08 championship decider.
“I’m just happy that I hit my shots,” said Izraeli. “I knew how important it was for Holon to beat Maccabi, but this is just crazy.”
Brian Asbury added 14 points and eight rebounds for Holon, with Laurence Bowers and Jerai Grant scoring 12 points each.
Ricky Hickman had 16 points for Maccabi, with David Blu and Tyrese Rice netting 11 points each. Blu’s performance in his first game back from retirement after one season away from the court is perhaps the only positive Maccabi coach David Blatt will take from Monday’s game. Tel Aviv’s big men were especially poor, with Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Shawn James and Joe Ingles combining for a miserable seven points and eight rebounds.
Maccabi will already leave for Vitoria on Tuesday and Blatt will need to lift his team to avoid another humbling loss in Spain.
Blatt handed Blu a starting role and the forward showed little sign of rust after a year of retirement, scoring eight quick points to give Maccabi a slender edge (12-11).
There was little to separate the teams in the remainder of the first half, with Hickman’s basket giving Tel Aviv a 44- 39 advantage at halftime.
Maccabi sunk three consecutive threes, the last of which by Yogev Ohayon, to take its gap to 13 points (60-47), but it completely lost its scoring touch after that and Holon completed a remarkable comeback.
After connecting on 9-of-13 threes to start the game, Maccabi hit just one of its final 12 attempts from beyond the arc and took more than five minutes to score its first points of the fourth period.
Holon also experienced offensive struggles, but Izraeli’s sixth triple of the night put the hosts up for good (72-70) with 2:55 to play, delighting the local support and stunning the disgruntled Maccabi.
Also Monday, a Jonathan Skjoldebrand three with two seconds to play gave Hapoel Tel Aviv a dramatic 76-75 victory over Bnei Herzliya in Gan Ner.
Michael Umeh took his total for the night to 24 points to give Herzliya a two-point edge (75-73) with 27 seconds remaining, but Skjoldebrand’s triple gave Hapoel the victory. Raviv Limonad led Hapoel with 21 points, with Skjoldebrand scoring 15 points.
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