Maccabi Tel Aviv may be in the midst of its worst-ever start to a local league campaign, but it remained on course to finish Euroleague regular season Group D in first place on Thursday night, beating Lokomotiv Kuban 75-73 at Nokia Arena to improve to a 6-2 record.

Maccabi dropped to a 5-4 record in the BSL with Monday’s 87-85 defeat at Hapoel Jerusalem, but it won for the sixth time in its past seven continental contests on Thursday to leapfrog Kuban (6-2) into first place by virtue of its two victories over the Russians this season.

Tel Aviv seemed to be on course for a relatively straightforward victory after opening a 12-point margin (65-53) early in the fourth quarter, only for Kuban to seize control with a 20-2 run (73-67).

However, Maccabi would score the final eight points of the night to clinch a potentially crucial win.

Sofoklis Schortsanitis had 15 points for Maccabi, with David Blu adding 13 points.

Mantas Kalnietis scored 18 points for Kuban, which will now be hoping Tel Aviv slips-up against Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius at home next week or versus Panathinaikos in Athens in its final regular season game.

Despite playing without the Euroleague MVP Derrick Brownfor the month of November due to sickness, Kuban literally couldn’t miss a shot at the start of the game, hitting its first four field-goal attempts, with Kalnietis’ three-pointer giving the visitors an early seven-point advantage (11-4).

However, the Russians would soon cool off, hitting just two of their next 12 attempts and Blu’s triple capped a 12-2 run (16-13), with the yellow-and-blue leading 18-17 after 10 minutes.

Kuban hit 5-of-8 three-point attempts, with Marcus Williams’ triple giving the visitors a 40-39 edge at the break.

However, Kuban scored just a single field goal in almost seven minutes to start the second half, allowing Maccabi to open a double-digit gap following Blu’s three (56-46) with 3:25 to play in the quarter.

Joe Ingles’ triple ensured the hosts still held a double-figure cushion (63-53) with 10 minutes to play and Blu’s basket to start the final frame extended Maccabi’s gap to a record 12 points (65-53).

But just when it seemed that the yellow-and-blue had the game under control the hosts froze completely.

Tel Aviv scored just two more points in the subsequent seven minutes, allowing Kuban to go on a 20-2 surge to open a 73-67 lead with 3:15 remaining on the clock.

However, Maccabi refused to be beaten, with consecutive threes by Blu and Guy Pnini tying the score (73-73).

Sofo’s basket with 1:07 to play would then give Tel Aviv the lead and Williams’ miss from beyond the arc as time expired ensured Maccabi held on for a significant victory.

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