Maccabi Tel Aviv lost all hope of securing home-court advantage in the Euroleague playoffs and has also still got work to do to advance to the quarterfinals after suffering a heartbreaking 77-76 defeat to Real Madrid at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
Maccabi gave one of Europe’s best teams a real run for its money for 40 minutes, but came up just short against the Spanish powerhouse, with center Alex Tyus squandering an opportunity to send the game to overtime after missing from the free-throw line with 2.3 seconds to play.
Tel Aviv dropped to 7-5 in Group F with Thursday’s defeat, leaving it with a mere one-game lead in third place and three games behind group leaders Real and CSKA Moscow with two games to play.
Devin Smith scored a season- high 23 points for Maccabi, which scored just 6-of-26 three-point attempts. Alex Tyus added 18 point and 11 rebounds, while Ricky Hickman netted 17 points.
Sergio Rodriguez led Real with 21 points.
The yellow-and-blue struggled to reach open looks against the Euroleague’s best defense at the start of the game and a Rodriguez triple extended Madrid’s margin to eight points (25-17) early in the second quarter.
However, after going scoreless in the first period, Smith burst into life in the second frame and carried Maccabi on his shoulders.
Smith’s three, which was also his team’s first triple of the night, brought the yellow-andblue within three points and his lay-up gave Maccabi its first lead since the start of the first period.
After failing to score in double- digits in Maccabi’s past four Euroleague games, Smith entered the break with 10 points. However, it was Guy Pnini’s buzzer-beating three which ensured the hosts had the advantage (43-40) entering the second half.
However, after conceding 28 points from Maccabi in the second quarter, Madrid’s defense moved up a gear in the third frame, holding the hosts to just five points in the first eight minutes of the quarter to open a nine-point cushion (57-48).
However, Smith would score three triples in the final one-anda- half minutes of the period to renew Tel Aviv’s hopes of claiming a win, with his full-court basket to beat the buzzer bringing the yellow-and-blue within five points (62-57) and igniting the capacity crowd in the arena.
Smith’s incredible shot shifted the momentum in Maccabi’s favor, with David Blatt’s team opening the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to move back in front.
Tel Aviv held Madrid scoreless for the first five minutes of the period, but failed to build a significant margin, scoring just eight points over that stretch.
Real’s first points of the quarter, courtesy of a Nikola Mirotic trey, tied the score (65-65) and a tight finish would ensue.
A Fernandez three gave Madrid the edge (75-72) with 1:45 minutes to play, but Maccabi could have moved into the lead had Smith scored his layup with 32 seconds to play.
However, Tel Aviv’s star swingman couldn’t connect from close range and Tyus’s freethrow miss sent Tel Aviv to a dejecting defeat.