Maccabi Tel Aviv center Alex Tyus dunks two of his 10 points in last night’s 79-72 win over Zalgiris Kaunas at Yad Eliyahu Arena..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
It wasn’t pretty, but Maccabi Tel Aviv couldn’t care less after beating Zalgiris Kaunas 79-72 at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night to edge closer to the Euroleague quarterfinals.
After three defeats from its previous four continental contests, Maccabi couldn’t afford anything but a win and it recorded one despite failing to score a point in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
The yellow-and-blue improved to 7-4 in the Top 16 ahead of its final three Group E games.
Maccabi remained a game behind Barcelona in the battle for second place and home-court advantage in the quarterfinal playoffs, but more importantly ensured it will hold at least a two-game lead over fifth place in the group entering next week’s action.
Jeremy Pargo led Maccabi with 26 points, with Devin Smith adding 19 points for Tel Aviv, which visits Real Madrid next Friday.
Arturas Milaknis had 19 points for Zalgiris, which fell to 4-7.
Pargo was the vocal point of Maccabi’s offense in the first quarter, with his 10th point of the night giving the yellow-andblue an early five-point gap (16- 11). The hosts led by as many as seven points in the opening period, but six straight points by Darius Songaila brought Zalgiris within a single point (18-17) by the end of the frame, Maccabi remained ahead throughout the second quarter but it wasn’t until Smith finally found his range that Tel Aviv managed to open a significant cushion.
After failing to score in the first 15 minutes of the contest, Smith caught fire in the final five minutes of the first half, netting 14 points, with his three-pointer opening a double-digit margin (43-32) for the first time with 23 seconds to play in the quarter.
Kaunas star James Anderson scored his first field-goal of the night to bring the visitors within nine points (43-34) at the interval and the Lithuanians carried the momentum into the second half, cutting the deficit to a single point (47-46). However, Smith replied with five consecutive points and a three-point play by Pargo reestablished a promising nine-point cushion (55-46).
Sofoklis Schortsanitis’s basket to end the third period made it a 12-point game (66-54), but Maccabi’s offense completely stalled to start the final 10 minutes, reigniting Kaunas’s hopes.
It took the yellow-and-blue more than six minutes to finally score its first points of the quarter, but Zalgiris only managed six points over that stretch and Pargo’s basket opened an eightpoint advantage (68-60). The American guard then secured Tel Aviv’s win with a three-pointer followed by two free throws (73- 62), ensuring Maccabi got its Top 16 campaign back on track after some tough defeats.