Maccabi Tel Aviv’s forward Devin Smith..
(photo credit: NOAM GALAI/MACCABI TEL AVIV)
Maccabi Tel Aviv began its Euroleague title defense in emphatic fashion on Thursday night, beating Limoges of France 92-76 at Nokia Arena in its regular season opener.
Five months after lifting its sixth European title with a memorable overtime victory over Real Madrid, the yellow-and-blue opened the 2014/15 regular season with a new head coach and five new players.
Nevertheless, it still had little trouble overcoming Limoges, which is playing in the Euroleague for the first time since 1998.
Maccabi already led by 13 points (34-21) in the first half, but ultimately entered the break ahead by just seven points (44-37).
Limoges tied the score (48-48) six minutes into the third quarter, but Maccabi would net 21 of the final 28 points of the period to open an unassailable 14-point margin (69-55), with Marques Haynes accounting for 11 of those points, including a basket from mid-court to beat the buzzer.
After brushing aside the mediocre Limoges, new Maccabi coach Guy Goodes will already get a better idea of the strength of his side when it visits CSKA Moscow next week.
Jeremy Pargo was excellent for Maccabi in his return to Nokia after three years, finishing with 20 points and nine assists. Haynes added 15 points, with Devin Smith contributing 13 points and 12 rebounds and Sofoklis Schortsanitis scoring 11 points despite only joining the team in training this week after failing his medical earlier in the summer.
Adrien Moerman led Limoges with 17 points.
Maccabi will already be back in action on Saturday when it hosts Hapoel Holon in the BSL at Nokia.
In BSL play on Thursday, Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil and Hapoel Tel Aviv notched their first wins of the season. After dropping to defeats in their season openers earlier this week, Gilboa beat Hapoel Eilat 76-70 in Gan Ner while Tel Aviv defeated Ironi Nahariya 82-66 at Hadar Yosef Arena.
A 15-3 Gilboa run to start the fourth period gave the hosts a 14-point gap (73- 59) which Eilat never came close to erasing.
Rafi Menco and Jeremiah Wilson had 16 points each for Gilboa, with Wayne Chism finishing with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Elishay Kadir led Eilat with 18 points and nine rebounds.
In Tel Aviv, the hosts trailed Nahariya until a 14-0 run at the end of the third period and the start of the fourth gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Yancy Gates had 22 points and eight boards for Hapoel, with Mark Lyons finishing with 18 points for newly-promoted Nahariya, which dropped to 0-2.
On Friday, Bnei Herzliya hosts Ironi Ness Ziona and Maccabi Rishon Lezion visits Maccabi Ashdod.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Jerusalem suffered an 80-76 defeat at Banvit Bandirma of Turkey in their Eurocup Group E opener on Wednesday.
Jerusalem led by as many as 11 points (33-22) in the second quarter, but the hosts ended the first half with an 11-2 run to close to within two points (35-33).
A tight second half would ensue, with the teams entering the final two minutes tied at 70-70.
A Sammy Mejia three-pointer gave Banvit a 76-74 lead with 27 seconds to play and Donta Smith and Joseph Jones missed opportunities to tie the score for Hapoel before Vladimir Veremeenko clinched the win from the free-throw line.
Jones led Hapoel with 19 points and seven rebounds, with Bracey Wright adding 14 points ans six rebounds.
Mejia had 17 points and seven rebounds for Banvit.
Also Wednesday, Maccabi Haifa gave the Washington Wizards a run for their money in NBA pre-season action, leading by as many as eight points before losing 101-95.
Dagan Yavzuri led Haifa with 23 points, hitting 7-of-8 three-point attempts, with Otto Porter scoring 19 points for the Wizards.
Haifa will continue its fourth NBA tour in five years when it faces the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday before playing the Sacramento Kings and Omri Casspi on Saturday and the Toronto Raptors next Wednesday.