Sofoklis Schortsantis of Maccabi Tel Aviv goes up for a shot.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s hopes of repeating as Euroleague champion looked more realistic than ever on Thursday night, with the yellow-and-blue defeating previously unbeaten Real Madrid 90-86 in an enthralling encounter at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Maccabi moved tied with Real atop Top 16 Group E at 4-1, but just as important, proved once more that it is more than capable of competing and beating the teams considered to be among Europe’s best after also overcoming Barcelona two weeks ago.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis was at his bulldozing best and finished with 17 points and eight rebounds for Maccabi, with Marquez Haynes adding 17 points, including five three-pointers. Sylven Landesberg contributed 16 points while Devin Smith scored 14.
Felipe Reyes had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Real, which failed to avenge its defeat in last season’s final.
Real carved up Maccabi’s defense at will at the start of the night, but Sofo single-handedly kept the hosts in touch in the early stages, with his 10th point of the night bringing Maccabi within a single point (13-12).
However, there was only so much the Greek center could do and Madrid took an eightpoint gap (31-23) into the second quarter.
Maccabi quickly ate away at the margin after catching fire from beyond the arc, with Haynes’s three-pointer giving Tel Aviv its first lead of the night (36-35).
The yellow-and-blue looked to have finally found a solution for Real’s swift passing game, but the Spaniards responded with a 10-0 run to regain control and took an eight-point cushion (54-46) into the break after dominating the boards, taking 11 offensive rebounds in the first half.
Maccabi needed a fast start to the second half and it got exactly that, with Sofo’s basket tying the score at 54-54. It took Real almost three minutes to score its first points of the second half, but the hosts couldn’t keep the Spaniards quiet for long, with Madrid once more establishing a promising eight-point margin (67-59).
However, a 9-0 surge in response saw Maccabi move back in front and the game remained wide open entering the final 10 minutes, with Real holding a one-point edge (69-68).
Nevertheless, Maccabi was exactly where it wanted to be ahead of the fourth frame and a 10-2 run would shift the momentum in Tel Aviv’s favor.
Landesberg was on fire and Pargo’s triple made it an eightpoint game (81-73) in Maccabi’s favor.
Real was not done though, with a Sergio Rodriguez three ensuring the visitors were within a single possession (85-82) entering the final minute. Nevertheless, Smith’s basket with 24 seconds to play maintained Maccabi’s cushion (88-83) and the yellow-and-blue celebrated a massive win.