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Maccabi Tel Aviv was overpowered by CSKA Moscow at the NBA Europe Live Tournament in Cologne, Germany, on Tuesday evening, losing 90-81 in a replay of the Euroleague championship game this past spring.
The exhibition game revealed many of the flaws of the new Maccabi team, and with the Euroleague season set to begin in 15 days, the squad will need to vastly improve in a short time if it's to repeat its success from the last three seasons in Europe's premier competition.
The differences between Maccabi and CSKA were clearly evident on Tuesday. Tel Aviv's new players have yet to gel into a team and coach Neven Spahija's side was ineffective on both sides of the floor for long periods of the game. Moscow, which preserved the core of the team from last season, defended and scored with the same elegance that led to its first European title in 35 years last season and will once again be one of the favorites ahead of the new Euroleague season.
CSKA was led by Slovenian Matjaz Smodis, who scored 24 points, while Lior Eliyahu was Maccabi's top scorer with 19 points. New signing Will Bynum scored 18 points, with Yotam Halperin netting 12 points.
CSKA led 8-4 at the start of the game and looked better than Maccabi, which was eager not to repeat its first-quarter collapse against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. Tel Aviv came back and a Halperin basket put the team up 12-10, which would prove to be its only lead of the game.
CSKA regained the advantage immediately and ended the first period with a 21-17 lead.
The Russians raced forward at the start of the second quarter, going on a 16-2 run and grabbing a comfortable lead. Tel Aviv looked helpless for large parts of the period and the half ended with CSKA up 49-33.
Maccabi began to eat away at CSKA's lead at the start of the second half with four straight points by Eliyahu cutting the lead to 12. Moscow quickly restored its advantage and a David Andersen basket gave the Russians a 64-49 lead.
Quality minutes from Halperin edged Tel Aviv closer to Moscow and his three-pointer at the end of the third period closed the gap to 67-58.
Maccabi continued to cut into the lead in the fourth quarter and a Rodney Buford basket put the team within three points (67-64) of the Russian team.
However, that was as close as Maccabi got. CSKA reopened its lead in the next few minutes and went on to win the game comfortably.
CSKAwill face the winner of the Phoenix Suns-Philadelphia 76ers game, which ended after press time Tuesday night, in the tournament final on Wednesday, while Maccabi will go up against the loser in a third-place game.
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