A disappointed and frustrated Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Israel on Friday afternoon after suffering its fifth Euroleague away defeat in six games, losing 98-92 to Joventut Badalona on Thursday night in Spain.
Maccabi played one of its better road games of the season however an 18-5 run by the hosts to end the game snatched the victory away from the Israelis.
"We played well for 35 minutes but in the last five we weren't there,"
Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said after the game. "We played against an excellent team which we knew would play well. We led for 75 percent of the game but we missed down the stretch."
Tel Aviv was the more focused and composed of the two sides at the start of the game and Nikola Vujcic's basket from an offensive rebound at the end of the first period gave the side a 26-20 lead.
A 10-2 run by the hosts in the second quarter tied the score at 46-46 however Maccabi quickly regained the lead and went into the interval up 54-48 thanks to Derrick Sharp's buzzer beating three-pointer.
Five points for the visitors at the start of the second half gave them their biggest advantage of the game (59-48) and a second road win of the season seemed to be on the cards.
Badalona made the most of three consecutive turnovers by Will Bynum and a Charles Gaines dunk tied the game (61-61). The score remained tight throughout the third quarter, but Tel Aviv nevertheless entered the final period with a slight edge (76-71).
The visitors led by as many as seven points midway through the fourth quarter and were still up by two points with a minute to go. However, Joventut's late surge secured the victory for the hosts and booked their place in the last 16 of the Euroleague.
Simas Jasaitis had his best game as a Maccabi player scoring 24 points, taking five rebounds and stealing the ball four times. Vujcic scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds with Sharp adding 16 points.
The hosts were led by Rudy Fernandez who scored 21 points and took seven rebounds with Elmer Bennett adding 15 points and six assists.
"We defeated Maccabi, a great team with talented players such as Vujcic and great outside shooting. We have to remain humble and keep on working to play at our best," Badalona coach Aito Reneses said of his side's victory.
"We should know how to win these types of games," Maccabi forward Lior Eliyahu said upon his return to Israel on Friday. "We controlled the game and we shouldn't concede 18 points in the last five minutes.
"We were unlucky. Nobody likes to lose, especially not in the last few minutes, however will still have everything to play for."
On Sunday Maccabi will have a chance to wipe away the memories of Thursday night when it faces Ironi Nahariya in the State Cup quarterfinal second leg.
The yellows will be expecting to qualify for the semifinals after taking an 86-72 lead in the first leg last week.
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