MAc TA 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Maccabi Tel Aviv's poor form caught up with it on Thursday night and it wasn't a pretty sight. The Israeli champion was outplayed in Lithuania by a superior Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and was thrashed 92-74.
Maccabi was smothered by the hosts' defense and was out-rebounded 37-14. Rytas' superb three point shooting (12 of 23) combined with its massive advantage on offensive rebounds (14 to 2) ensured that the hosts were always in control and led throughout the entire encounter.
Even though Tel Aviv got the better of Ironi Nahariya (90-87) and Le Mans (74-71) in its BSL and Euroleague season-openers, it was quite clear that the team was struggling and that it was only a matter of time before they lost.
Coach Oded Katash, who was obviously hoping it would take a little longer for that time to come, had no excuse for the way his team played on Thursday.
"This isn't an easy place to play, but we nevertheless lost in an unacceptable fashion. You can't compete with a team that takes 23 more rebounds than you," Katash said. "I was embarrassed with the way we looked in the first half. Our game plan simply didn't work. I told the players that they must learn from this game."
Maccabi hosts David Blatt's Efes Pilsen next week and Katash will have to return to the drawing board and find a way to improve his team considerably to avoid a second straight loss.
Will Bynum led Maccabi with 14 points and five assists, but also had five turnovers. Nikola Vujcic was the only other Tel Aviv player to score in double-figures, adding 12 points.
Arturas Jomantas led all scorers with 19 points and also had six rebounds and six assists. Mindaugas Lukauskis added 16 points, with Hollis Price and Kenan Bajramovic scoring 15 and 12 points respectively.
Rytas opened the game with four straight points and Lukauskis' three-pointer four minutes into the encounter gave the Lithuanians a 10-4 lead. A Terence Morris dunk from a Bynum assist brought the visitors within one point (10-9), but it wasn't long before Vilnius surged ahead once more. Four straight points by Price gave his team an 18-11 lead and the hosts were ahead by eight points (22-14) at the end of the first period after Bynum missed a three pointer at the buzzer.
Rytas continued to extend the margin at the start of the second quarter, with Jomantas' triple opening a double-digit lead for the first time (29-18). Two more points by Jomantas midway through the period gave the hosts a 33-20 advantage and a Bajramovic basket from an offensive rebound opened a 16-point margin (44-28), Vilnius' biggest of the half.
Rytas wasn't content with its 15- point first half cushion (46-31) and Jomantas' triple at the start of the third period gave the hosts a 51-31 lead. Maccabi was helpless on defense and Marijonas Petravicius' basket four minutes into the second half opened a 26 point advantage (67-41).
Even though the game was all but lost Tel Aviv went on an 18-5 run that restored some pride. Derrick Sharp's five points at the end of the third quarter cut the deficit to 19 points (72-53) ahead of the final 10 minutes of the game. Early in the fourth period the yellow-and-blue came within 11 points of its opponents.
Morris's free-throws midway through the quarter brought Maccabi as close as it would come in the second half (75-64), but three more baskets from beyond the arc by the hosts opened a massive lead once more and reestablished Vilnius' dominance.