Maccabi Tel Aviv ended the Euroleague Top 16 on a sour note on Thursday night, losing 81-76 to CSKA Moscow at Nokia Arena.
Maccabi was playing for no more than pride, with the yellow-and- blue entering the game knowing it was already guaranteed to end Group F in third place and face Olimpia Milano in the best-of-five quarterfinal series which will begin in Italy next Wednesday.
Nevertheless, the yellow-and-blue was hoping to build momentum ahead of the playoffs and Saturday’s crucial showdown with Jerusalem in the BSL.
Tyrese Rice led Maccabi with 15 points and seven assists, with David Blu adding 14 points for the hosts, who ended Group F with an 8-6 record.
Three days after storming into the stands at Hadar Yosef Arena looking to assault a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan, Maccabi center Sofoklis Schortsanitis finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 15 productive minutes.
Aaron Jackson had 18 points for CSKA (12-2) and he opened an early 12-point gap (23-11) for the visitors. However, Maccabi, which rested star forward Devin Smith and lost Yogev Ohayon to an ankle injury in the first quarter, scored the final six points of the opening period to limit the damage (23-17) and ended the first half with a 12-2 run to take a 45-42 edge into the break.
A tight second half would ensue until a late 10-2 run saw Moscow open an eight-point gap (78-70) with 44 seconds to play from which Maccabi was never going to return.
While few games can rival the history and prestige of the matchup between Maccabi and CSKA, the yellow-and-blue entered Thursday’s encounter with one eye on Saturday’s visit to Jerusalem.
While Thursday’s game had no influence on the Top 16 standings, the clash at Malha will likely decide which team claims the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs.
Both sides enter the contest with a 20-6 record, with Jerusalem currently having the edge over Maccabi having beaten the yellow-and-blue twice in three meetings so far this season.
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