Maccabi Tel Aviv resurrected its Euroleague campaign on Thursday night, defeating Real Madrid 81-76 at the Nokia Arena in its best game of the season by far.
Maccabi struggled desperately in the vast majority of its continental games this campaign, and lost even when it played well against Montepaschi Siena last week.
However, on Thursday it displayed the desire and determination it has lacked for much of the season and claimed an impressive victory which gives it renewed hope to advance to the quarterfinals from Group F of the Top 16.
“We won a massive game,” Maccabi coach Pini Gershon said. “I really enjoyed our performance.”
Alan Anderson and Chuck Eidson finally played well together for Maccabi and terrorized Real’s defense. Anderson scored 20 points, took eight rebounds and passed five assists with Eidson netting 18 points and grabbing six rebounds.
D’or Fischer added 14 points for Tel Aviv, which hosts Efes Pilsen next Thursday.
Rimantas Kaukenas had 17 points for Real, but the Spaniards scored just 5-of-24 from beyond the arc and fell to their third defeat of the Euroleague season.
Maccabi was hesitant at the start of the game and its poor shot selection allowed Real to open an 8-2 lead after a Pablo Prigioni three-pointer.
However, Tel Aviv improved its defensive intensity as the game progressed and pegged Madrid back after finding its range on offense.
Anderson’s basket tied the score at 13-13 and David Bluthenthal’s dunk with 12 seconds remaining in the period made sure the score was still level (18-18) after 10 minutes. Stephane Lasme’s three-point move to start the second quarter gave Maccabi its first lead of the night and the hosts extended the margin in the subsequent minutes. Madrid struggled against Tel Aviv’s defense and Bluthenthal’s triple opened a 30-22 gap.
Tel Aviv began making Real look helpless and Bluthenthal’s lay-up capped the team’s best half of the season to give it a well-deserved 41-34 lead.
Madrid came out of the locker rooms with the resolve it was lacking in the first half as Kaukenas scored seven points in the first 90 seconds to bring the Spaniards within one possession (43-41).
Real, however, could not complete the comeback, with Maccabi regaining its rhythm and remaining in front.
Bluthenthal’s accurate free-throws with 3:30 remaining in the period gave Tel Aviv a seven-point advantage once more (54-47) and the hosts pulled further ahead until the end of the quarter.
An Eidson dunk was followed by three more points from Anderson and Maccabi increased its lead to 59-47. Eidson and Anderson were teaming up beautifully and Tel Aviv took a 64-54 margin into the final 10 minutes.
Real tried everything to get back into the game, but Maccabi was excellent on defense and effective on offense.
Marko Jaric three brought Real within four points (78-74) with one
minute to go, but Doron Perkins scored from beyond the arc with 43
seconds remaining and Tel Aviv claimed a well-earned victory.