Maccabi Tel Aviv moved within one win of advancing to its first Euroleague Final Four since 2011 on Monday night after taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five quarterfinal series against Olimpia Milano with a 75-63 victory at Nokia Arena.
After allowing an average 95 points per game in the first two contests of the series in Italy, Maccabi’s defense secured Monday’s triumph, with the yellowand- blue holding Milano to just 29 points in the first half to take a double-digit gap into the interval (39-29). Maccabi dominated the second half, never allowing Milano within single digits and will be confident of securing its place in European basketball’s showcase event when it hosts Game 4 at Nokia on Wednesday night.
Milano will be aiming to send the series back to Italy for a decisive Game 5 on Friday with a win on Wednesday, but Maccabi has no intention of returning to Milan before mid-May when Olimpia’s Mediolanum Forum hosts the Final Four.
David Blu led Maccabi with 16 points on Monday, while Ricky Hickman and Alex Tyus added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Daniel Hackett had 14 points for Milano, which shot a shocking 4-of-25 (16%) from three-point range.
Maccabi looked edgy at the start of the game, committing far too many unnecessary turnovers, allowing Milano to open an early lead.
A David Moss three-pointer gave the visitors a six-point gap (10-4) midway through the first quarter, but Maccabi was never in any danger of losing touch, with a Tyus dunk tying the score at 15-15.
Milano still had the edge after 10 minutes (16-15), but another Tyus dunk early in the second period gave Maccabi its first lead of the night (17-16).
Tel Aviv kept its foot on the gas throughout the second quarter, especially on the defensive end, holding the Italians to a mere 13 points in the frame.
Blu found his range, with his five consecutive points opening a 28-23 margin, before Hickman scored the final four points of the half to give Maccabi its first double-digit margin of the night (39-29), and biggest until that stage.
Maccabi made the most of its momentum at the start of the second half, opening with a Devin Smith triple followed by a Blu three, which took the gap to 16 points (49-33).
Maccabi never even allowed Milano within single digits in the second half and the yellowand- blue moved to the brink of a return to the Final Four in a season which at one stage promised so little.
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