Maccabi Tel Aviv lost important ground in the battle for a top-two finish in Top 16 Group F on Friday, but remained well placed to advance to the quarterfinal playoffs from third position despite the 78-76 defeat at Lokomotiv Kuban.
A 10-0 run bridging the first and second quarters gave Kuban a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, but Maccabi never lost touch. The yellow- and-blue had a chance to snatch a win in the closing seconds, but David Blu missed a three-pointer with seven seconds to play and Maccabi fell to a 6-3 record, two games behind Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow.
Kuban improved to 4-5 to move tied with Bayern Munich for fourth place, but Maccabi still holds a two-game gap over the two with five Top 16 games to play.
Maccabi center Sofoklis Schortsanitis was excellent once more against Kuban, scoring 18 points in 18 minutes, hitting 7-of- 8 field goals, but just 4-of-11 free throws.
David Blu and Ricky Hickman scored 16 points each for Maccabi, which was outrebounded 37-26, with Kuban taking 12 offensive boards.
“We played much better in the second half and had some chances to seize control but couldn’t make the most of them,” said Blu. “I scored four three-pointers but missed the most important one and that hurts. Coach Blatt drew up the play and Hickman found me but my shot was a few centimeters short.”
Krunoslav Simon led Kuban with 23 points, scoring 15 of them in the fourth quarter.
“People always remember the end of the game, but we lost the encounter earlier when we had some annoying misses and mistakes,” said Blatt. “Kuban is a very good team and came very close to beating CSKA and Real. We had already beaten them three times this season and it is a shame we didn’t manage to do so again. We have a big week ahead of us with the BSL regular season coming to an end before facing Zalgiris Kaunas in the Euroleague.”