Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Jeremy Pargo.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT/BSL)
Maccabi Tel Aviv may long live to regret Tuesday night’s 80-72 defeat at Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul in Game 1 of the Euroleague quarterfinals after squandering a golden opportunity to snatch home-court advantage in the best-of-five series.
Maccabi led throughout the first half and by as many as 11 points (54-43) midway through the third quarter. However, the defending champion couldn’t continue the momentum, being outscored 29-9 over the next 12 minutes and dropping to a dejecting defeat.
Maccabi can’t afford to take long to recover, with Game 2 of the series to already be played in Istanbul on Thursday. Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) will take place in Tel Aviv next week on April 20 and 22, with a decisive Game 5 to be held in Turkey on April 28, should it be required.
Jeremy Pargo was excellent for Maccabi with 25 points and eight rebounds, but star forward Devin Smith experienced an off night, finishing with 10 points for the yellow-and-blue, which committed 14 turnovers and allowed 17 offensive rebounds.
Jan Vesely led Fenerbahce with 23 points and seven boards, with the hosts triumphing despite stars Andrew Goudelock and Bogdan Bogdanovic combining for just 13 points on 5-of-17 from the field.
Maccabi couldn’t have asked for a better start in Istanbul, netting the first eight points of the night and holding Fenerbahce scoreless for almost four minutes to begin the contest.
A Smith three-pointer made it a nine-point game (11-2), with the hosts managing just two points in the first five minutes.
However, it was only a matter of time until Fener found its range, closing to within three points (13- 10) before Maccabi reestablished a six-point cushion (22-16) ahead of the second period.
After failing to sink a single three in his previous four Euroleague games, Yogev Ohayon hit his second trey of the night to open a 25-18 margin. However, the Turks never lost touch and had it not been for Pargo they may well have completed a comeback in the first half. The American guard almost scored at will, finishing the first half with 19 points to ensure Maccabi maintained a slender edge (42-38) at the interval.
The start of the second half wasn’t too different to the first, with the yellow-and-blue frustrating the hosts on defense to build a promising lead.
Ohayon hit another triple and an Alex Tyus basket midway through the third frame took Maccabi’s gap into double-digits (54-43) for the first time.
Maccabi seemed to be heading in the right direction, only to completely lose its way in the final five minutes of the period.
Tel Aviv added just five points by the end of the quarter and Fenerbahce took full advantage.
Goudelock, who entered the game averaging a team-high 16.7 points per contest, struggled for much of the night, but his second basket of the game capped a 16-4 run which completed the comeback and gave the hosts a 59-58 advantage ahead of the final 10 minutes.
Despite scoring just three points in the first four minutes of the fourth period, Maccabi still trailed Fener by just three points (64-61), but it couldn’t get away with its offensive futility for much longer.
Pargo brought Maccabi back within three points (66-63) with five minutes to play, but that would be as close as the Israeli champion would come in the final frame, with Fener scoring the next six points to establish a comfortable gap and ultimately cruise to the final buzzer and strike the first blow in the series.