Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Bennet Cantu 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One down, three to go.
Maccabi Tel Aviv picked up the first of four
titles it hopes to collect this season on Thursday night, beating Maccabi Rishon
Lezion 82-69 at Nokia Arena to lift the State Cup for the third straight year
and the 39th time in club history.
Tel Aviv scored the first seven points
of the night and remained in complete control throughout the final against
Rishon, which never really had a chance against a vastly superior
Rishon coach Effi Birenboim was guiding his fifth different
team in a cup final, but once more he couldn’t add to the single cup he won with
Bnei Herzliya in 1995, while Tel Aviv’s David Blatt maintained his perfect local
trophy record, taking the cup for the fourth time.
Blatt will be looking
to make it four Israeli league championships in four years as yellow-and-blue
head coach at the end of the season, but first he will be hoping to guide
Maccabi to its first Adriatic League title and also take it back to the
Euroleague Final Four.
Keith Langford led Tel Aviv with 23 points, with
David Blu and Tal Burstein scoring 12 points each.
Joe Crawford had 20
points for Rishon, with Derwin Kitchen and Brandon Bowman scoring 18 and 15
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Tel Aviv had no intention of allowing Rishon to
even get a foothold in the game, with Langford almost single-handedly outscoring
Birenboim’s men in the first period.
Langford scored the yellow-and-blue’s
first seven points to give Maccabi an early 7-0 lead, and although it took
Rishon almost three minutes to get its first points on the board, the fans in
orange were still full of hope after a Crawford dunk closed the deficit to three
points (9-6) midway through the quarter.
However, it took Maccabi less
than two minutes to put a damper on Rishon’s optimism, with Lior Eliyahu’s
basket opening a 15-6 gap.
Langford’s three-pointer to end the quarter
gave him 12 points to Rishon’s 13 and extended Tel Aviv’s margin to double
figures for the first time (24-13).
The American guard continued to
terrorize Rishon in the second period, taking his personal total to 16 points to
keep his side comfortably in front (30-19).
Tel Aviv seemed to be in
complete control, but Crawford ensured Rishon remained in touch, with his jumper
bringing his team to within six points (30-24).
Rishon closed to within
just five points in the final three minutes of the half, but a Burstein lay-up
in the closing seconds capped a 10-3 Maccabi run, which opened a deserved
double-digit lead (46-34) at the break.
Rishon would have been completely
out of the game had Crawford not netted 16 in the first half, but Maccabi was
determined not to allow the American guard to harm it any further and there was
only going to be one outcome to the final after he was held to just two points
in the third quarter.
The margin continued to mushroom as the period
progressed and Tel Aviv’s celebrations began with still two minutes left in the
third after two consecutive threes by Blu opened an unassailable 20-point
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