Maccabi Tel Aviv ended its North American tour Tuesday night with a hard fought 108-96 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.
After falling 106-91 to the New York Knicks on Sunday, Maccabi battled well against Los Angeles, leading by two points towards the end of the second quarter
Maccabi was led by a brilliant game from Doron Perkins. The guard finished with a triple-double, scoring 16 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and passing 10 assists.
Chuck Eidson tallied 18 points for the visitors and David Bluthenthal added 12, including a long three-pointer with four seconds left that delighted the mostly pro-Maccabi crowd.
Chris Kaman led the Clippers with 18 points. The home team also got 13 points and 10 rebounds from rookie Blake Griffin and 15 points and seven assists from Sebastian Telfair.
"I thought Maccabi did a good job. They moved the basketball well. They've got some guys that shoot the ball well and know their roles," said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy.
"We just had too much size for them and were able to take advantage of that. But I thought they played hard until the end and made it a fairly close game."
Maccabi Coach Pini Gershon was much more subdued against the Clippers after being ejected and refusing to leave the court for eight minutes in Sunday's exhibition against the Knicks.
Maccabi's players were able to take many positives out of the game.
"The goal is always to win the game, especially playing for [Maccabi Coach] Pini Gershon, but at the same time we understand reality. This is their gym, their rules, their refs. We're happy with the way we played," Bluthenthal said.
Maccabi stormed out of the gate early against the Clippers. Using active defense, Tel Aviv was able to frustrate LA into five first quarter turnovers and entered the second quarter down only four points (26-22).
The two teams traded baskets for most of the second quarter until Stephen Lasme gave Maccabi the lead (42-40), with five straight points.
But that would be the last time Maccabi led. The Clippers ended the half with 13 straight points, including nine from Rasual Butler, and went into halftime up 53-40.
"They made shots and we didn't" said David Bluthenthal, when asked how the Clippers were able to break the game open.
At halftime, the crowd broke into a chant of "Am Israel Chai" led by Rabbi Yitchak Dovid Grossman, the founder and dean of Migdal Ohr, the charity which received proceeds from the game.
The second half was mostly controlled by the Clippers who led by as many as 22 before a late Maccabi run made the final score more palatable.
"Our guys did a much better job at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter and we were able to stretch it out and get a decent lead, to start taking advantage of our size," Dunleavy said Maccabi's gritty play certainly earned the respect of the Clipper players.
"Maccabi's a great team," said Clippers Center DeAndre Jordan. "They're well coached. They've got a lot of shooters and I can understand why they're dominant [in Europe]."
"We didn't take them lightly," LA's shooting guard Eric Gordon said. "They're a pretty good, solid team and they played really hard."
Despite the los,s forward Yaniv Green was satisfied with his team's display. "We played better today than we did in New York, but we're looking forward to the real games," he said.
"Most of the things we did this game, we can't take back to Europe and Israel because the rules are different. But we played against big guys today, so that will help us prepare for Europe."
Maccabi's 2007 exhibition against the Knicks, a game attended by over 18,000 fans, provided the impetus for bringing the team back to New York and expanding Maccabi's trip further west to Los Angeles.
The announced crowd of 13,753 was comprised mostly of Maccabi fans and members of Los Angeles' large Jewish community.
"I think we have a big advantage when we play at Bloomfield and if we do what the coaches tell us I believe we can win," Natcho said. "It is always fun to play in European competition and if we want to continue doing so late into the season we need the points."
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