YOGEV OHAYON 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to win a decisive Game 5 in Athens next week if it is
to advance to the Euroleague Final Four after falling 78-69 to Panathinaikos at
Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
A win would have seen Maccabi progress to
its ninth Final Four in the past 13 years, but the yellow-and-blue couldn’t
close out the series against the defending champion and now faces an extremely
difficult Game 5 in Greece with the series tied at 2-2.
and Devin Smith had 14 points each for Maccabi, with Lior Eliyahu adding 12
Nick Calathes had 15 for Panathinaikos, which will now surely
like its chances of reaching the Final Four in Istanbul.
It was a tense
affair right from the tip-off, with Pao initially holding a slender margin before
Yogev Ohayon’s three-pointer gave Maccabi its first lead of the night (13-12)
with 3:20 to play in the first period.
The hosts still had the edge after
10 minutes (19-17), but Tel Aviv showed early signs of fatigue on offense and
former Maccabi star Sarunas Jasikevicius hit a three to open a five-point gap
(30- 25), Pao’s biggest of the first half.
Tel Aviv had to toil for every
point, relying on solo efforts rather than team moves, recording just a single
assist in total in the entire first half.
After Tuesday’s sloppy first
half, Pao committed just five turnovers in the first 20 minutes and would have
held a larger lead at the break (41-36) had it not missed so many free throws (9
After scoring 10 in the first half, Calathes added five quick
points at the start of the third period, giving Panathinaikos a double-digit
margin (49-38) and forcing coach David Blatt to call a timeout with the second
half less than two minutes old.
Maccabi looked close to breaking point,
but a 9-0 run, capped by an Ohayon tip-in, meant the yellow-and-blue was back
within one possession (49-47) midway through the third
Panathinaikos held a 54-50 lead with 10 minutes to play and Pao
coach Zeljko Obradovic began the fourth frame with all his big guns, playing in
the back-court with both Saras and Dimitris Diamantidis.
jumper took the lead to five and a three by Kostas Kaimakoglou 80 seconds into
the period extended the gap to eight (59-51).
But Maccabi was never going
to give up without leaving every drop of sweat on the Nokia floor and five
straight points by Langford cut the deficit to just two points (60-58) with 6:55
After not even playing a single minute in Game 3, Demond
Mallet came out of nowhere to hit a three and Eliyahu’s basket moments later
gave Maccabi its first lead of the second half (65-64) with 4:17 left in the
Tel Aviv still held a one-point gap (67-66) after David Blu’s free
throws with 3:20 to go, but it only scored two points in the remainder of the
game and now faces a series (and season) decider in Athens next Thursday.