Macabbi TA 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv has passed its first major test of the domestic season. Despite a slow start, the yellow-and-blue prevailed after riding a fourth quarter surge against Effi Birenboim's Bnei Hasharon 85-73 at the Nokia Arena on Monday evening.
"Just like in Ashkelon, very poor three quarters," Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said after the game, referring to his team's performance last week.
"I am not happy and we have to change a lot of things in order to play the same way in all competitions. We have a tough game against Cibona [Zagreb] on Thursday and this form will not be enough."
Bnei Hasharon's main asset this season is Lee Nailon, who has a rich history at NBA teams including New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Birenboim's latest signing averaged 35.5 points in his first two league games, making him the team's go-to man and Maccabi's main threat going into the game.
Ousmane Cisse made a great start for the visitors, dominating the boards and denying Maccabi's Nikola Vujcic on numerous occasions with his trademark blocks. Tel Aviv enjoyed potent minutes from Rodney Buford, who scored some quick baskets in transition to give the yellow-and-blue a 20-17 lead entering the second quarter.
Maccabi failed to build on its lead, despite Nailon collecting two personal fouls and hitting the bench for long stretches in the second quarter. Bnei Hasharon were unimpressed with Yotam Halperin's back-to-back three-pointers and raced away to a surprise 39-37 lead at the halftime break.
The visitors kept controlling the paint in the second half, increasing their lead to 59-52 and looking like potential winners. But Cisse collected his fourth foul of the game towards the end of the third quarter and enabled Maccabi to produce a comeback, which was sparked by Will Bynum.
Vujcic scored four straight points and Bynum added a three-pointer midway into the final period to give the hosts a promising 69-66 lead. Cisse returned for the closing minutes, but sprained his ankle and Bnei Hasharon couldn't keep pace with the champions, who registered a comfortable 85-73 win.
Bynum led the way for Maccabi with 18 points, while Halperin produced a strong offensive effort to finish with 16 points. Nailon was the leading scorer for Bnei Hasharon despite his first half slump, registering 18 points and six boards.