Maccabi Tel Aviv took a huge step towards its sixth Final Four in seven years with a 73-58 win over Real Madrid on Thursday night at Nokia Arena.
Sharon Shason had his best game in a Maccabi uniform with 16 points - 14 in the second half - as Maccabi matched Madrid for the best record in Group E of the Top 16.
The loss was Madrid's first in the Top 16, while Maccabi won its third in a row to improve to 3-1.
Real defeated Maccabi 90-75 in their Top 16 opener last month, but Maccabi matched the point differential. However, Real remains in first place in the group thanks to a better overall point difference. Real has outscored opponents by 18 points thus far, while Maccabi only 15 after three games.
Thanks to Ulker Istanbul's 84-80 home win over Climamio Bologna earlier in the evening, both teams will secure quarterfinals berths with just one more win this season.
Despite the strong second-half showing, Maccabi players remained focused. "We've got to keep winning, stay grounded and stay hungry," captain Derrick Sharp said afterwards.
Maccabi hosts Climamio next Thursday before traveling to Istanbul for its Top 16 finale.
Madrid played Maccabi tough through the first half and led 36-33 at halftime, but it was all Maccabi in the second half.
The visitors scored just 22 points in the last 20 minutes as Maccabi began to think about the 15-point margin midway through the fourth quarter.
The keys came with a 10-1 run that closed out the third period during which Shason nailed a three and drove to the basket. In the fourth, Sharp and then Shason twice hit back-to-back-to-back threes to put the game away and make it only about the margin.
Maceo Baston had the play of the game with a minute left when he flew out of the paint to swat a Felipe Reyes jumper and took the ball himself
coast-to-coast for an uncontested poster slam that stretched the lead to 15. But neither team scored in the remaining minute, which left the teams even in the head-to-head.
Baston led Maccabi with 20 points, Solomon added 10 and Anthony Parker had eight points and 13 rebounds.
Reyes led Real with 14, but shot just 8-for-16 from the line.
Allon Sinai contributed to this report.
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