(photo credit: AP)
Nikola Vujcic picked up the weekly Euroleague MVP award for a second time this season after his sensational performance in Maccabi Tel Aviv's losing effort against Lottomatica Roma in their Euroleague Group B game in Italy on Thursday night.
Vujcic scored a career-high 33 points on 9-of-12 from two-point range and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Croatian center also added eight rebounds and seven assists, amassing a total index rating of 40 in Maccabi's 88-81 overtime loss.
The Euroleague selects its weekly MVP based on a statistical index that gives players points for points scored, rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, and fouls drawn, and subtracts points for missed shots, turnovers, and fouls committed.
Vujcic was one of only two Tel Aviv players to score in double figures, with Jamie Arnold getting 13 points on a night when all of Maccabi's frailties were on full display.
"In the second half, we had a chance to win the game, but we lost control after Yotam Halperin and Jamie Arnold fouled out," Tel Aviv coach Neven Spahija said of his club's fourth defeat in five away games. "Only Nikola Vujcic and Lior Eliyahu scored for us.
"We struggled when we had to play with Tal Burstein, who is still not at his best. We have to bounce back in our next game. I am still confident we can qualify from second position in our group for the Top 16."
Maccabi trailed 14-10 after 10 minutes in which neither team showed much of its ability.
Dejan Bodiroga (16 points and six rebounds) gave the hosts a seven-point lead three minutes before halftime, but Tel Aviv was able to cut the deficit to three (35-32) at the interval.
Roma surged at the start of the third quarter and took a 44-32 lead after three minutes - it's biggest of the game.
Maccabi began to eat away at the advantage and was only down by one point (53-52) entering the last 10 minutes of regulation.
The game remained tight throughout the final quarter and after Will Bynum (six points) botched the visitors' final attack of regulation, Mira Chatman (19 points and five rebounds) missed on the other side to force overtime (72-72).
Tel Aviv ran out of steam in the extra period and accurate three-point shooting from David Hawkins (23 points) and his teammates secured the win for the Italian club, which is now tied with three other teams at 4-6 in the eight-team Group B.
"Maccabi made us work for the victory. We suffered a little in the first half and then we took a 12-point lead after the break, but Maccabi came back," Bodiroga said. "It was a very exciting game. We have played against one of the best teams in Europe and we are extremely happy with the win.
"We managed to keep our concentration in the crucial last minutes of the game and played very well defensively when it mattered."
Maccabi dropped to third in the group, tied with DKV Joventut at 6-4 but with an inferior point differential. Joventut hosts Maccabi on Thursday in a showdown for second place.
Burstein, who was playing in his first game of the season, was only on court for seven minutes and failed to score.
"I'm slowly recovering my form and it was good to be able to return to play, but I didn't want to start my season with a defeat," Burstein said after the game. "Roma played better than us and we collapsed in overtime, especially on defense, and it cost us dearly.
"Hopefully, we will return to winning ways in our next game. The important thing is that the team learns from its mistakes."
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