As if Maccabi Tel Aviv's off-court problems are not bad enough, the team discovered on Thursday night that it has also got plenty of on-court issues to deal with.
Maccabi suffered an 86-81 defeat at Caja Laboral Vitoria in Spain, its first loss of the Euroleague season.
Tel Aviv has been embroiled in controversy since the suicide of its former team manager Moni Fanan last Monday. The team had hoped to make some positive headlines on Thursday, but after a tight game lost its composure in the final minutes and fell to a disappointing defeat.
Tiago Splitter led Vitoria with 26 points, with Marcelinho Huertas adding 16 points. Lior Eliyahu, who left Maccabi for Spain in the summer, scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Vitoria. Maciej Lampe scored 18 points and took seven rebounds for Maccabi. Chuck Eidson added 16 points.
Pini Gershon began the game with Yaniv Green, and the Israeli center scored the first five points of the night. Chuck Eidson's three-pointer moments later completed an 8-0 run to start the game and Vitoria coach Dusko Ivanovic was forced to take an early timeout.
Vitoria found its range after the short break, with Tiago Splitter scoring six straight points and Fernando San Emeterio giving the hosts a 9-8 lead with a three point move.
The game remained tight in the subsequent minutes, but a 9-1 run capped by an Eidson basket seemed to put Tel Aviv in the driving seat once more (25-18). Vitoria would never lose touch, however, and Marcelinho Huertas's buzzer-beating long-range three tied the score at 25-25 after 10 minutes.
Caja Laboral continued to run all over Maccabi at the start of the second quarter, with Brad Oleson scoring two straight triples to open a six-point gap (31-25). Tel Aviv came right back and even regained the lead briefly, but Vitoria dominated the final five minutes of the first half and would open a double-digit lead.
Lior Eliyahu's nice move gave the hosts a 49-39 advantage with 2.20 to play and another steal and dunk by Vitoria's Israeli forward opened a 55-41 margin.
Maccabi trailed 55-44 at the break Tel Aviv ate away at the lead as the third quarter progressed, with Eidson's three-point play cutting the gap to 63-59.
David Bluthenthal's three to end the period brought Maccabi within three points (69-66) and two more triple by the forward to begin the fourth quarter gave the visitors the lead.
The game remained tight in the following minutes, but Maccabi struggled to score in the final five minutes and was never going to win. Splitter's basket opened an 84-79 lead with 1:45 to play and Tel Aviv fell to its first loss of the European season.