Maccabi Tel Aviv 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv edged Unicaja Malaga 106-101 in overtime in its Euroleague season opener on Thursday night at Nokia Arena.
Maccabi's performance during the victory was at best erratic. The team led by 18 points at the end of the first period and was looking like the Tel Aviv teams of recent years. However, a 14-0 Malaga run at the start of the second quarter dispelled any thoughts Maccabi might have had of getting an easy win.
The second half was close throughout and the game went into overtime, when the hosts only won thanks to Jamie Arnold's offensive boards.
Will Bynum led Maccabi with 29 points in his European debut, with Arnold adding 17 points and eight rebounds. Another new face for Maccabi, Simas Jasaitis, and Lior Eliyahu were both impressive on Thursday, scoring 14 and 12, respectively. Nikola Vujcic was his usual stellar self with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Malaga guard Carlos Cabezas, who scored 32 points, grabbed six rebounds and had six assists, almost single-handedly forced overtime.
"We played a bad game, but we won," Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said afterwards. "But it's better to learn from a win than a loss.
"At the moment, we are only ready to play 25 minutes at the top level of European basketball.
"We won the game and that's most important."
Both teams had difficulty finding their rhythm at the start of the game and the score remained tight in the first few minutes. Five points by Lithuanian Jasaitis and good defensive play by Maccabi gave the team a 20-10 lead halfway through the period.
Tel Aviv continued to increase its lead, with Malaga unable to slow down the hosts on defense. Two points by Jasaitis at the end of the period capped a 21-6 Maccabi run and the hosts cruised to a 34-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Jasaitis was unstoppable in the first 10 minutes, scoring 12 points without a miss.
Malaga began the second period with a Cabezas three-pointer and thanks to its improvement in defense, began to close in on Tel Aviv. Another Cabezas score from beyond the arc capped a 14-0 quarter-starting run and the Spanish team was only four points away from Maccabi (34-30).
A Derrick Sharp three-pointer finally ended the hosts' drought that lasted for over five minutes, and the team began to reestablish its lead. Jamie Arnold's successful jump shot gave Maccabi an eight-point advantage and put some color back on his coach's face.
However, Malaga was intent on catching Maccabi and it came back with another run, 12-4 to end the half. Two free throws by Cabezas tied the score at 49.
Four straight points by Eliyahu gave Tel Aviv a 57-52 lead at the start of the second half, but thanks to Cabezas, the visitors always remained within reach.
Bynum was on fire in the closing stages of the third period, scoring nine straight points for Maccabi at one stage. The last of the American's nine points gave the hosts a 74-70 lead. Cabezas replied with three of his own and the period ended with Maccabi clinging to a one-point advantage.
The lead changed hands numerous times at the start of the final period as neither side managed to open up a substantial gap. Arnold gave Maccabi an 80-77 advantage, but Jiri Welsch's three-pointer restored parity immediately.
A Bynum jump shot pushed Maccabi up by four and his acrobatic score seconds later gave the hosts a five-point lead (88-83) with less then two minutes to go.
Malaga would not break, and another three-pointer by Cabezas tied the score at 88-88.
Two free throws by Vujcic gave Tel Aviv a two-point lead, but once more Cabezas was the man for the Spaniards, scoring from under the basket with six seconds remaining.
Bynum lost the ball in the ensuing seconds and the game went into overtime.
After Jasaitis scored the first basket in overtime, Tel Aviv finally grabbed a meaningful lead (101-95) midway through the added period thanks to two consecutive baskets by Arnold from offensive rebounds.
The six-point advantage proved to be more than the visitors could handle and Maccabi opened its Euroleague season with a victory.
Hapoel knocks out Rishon in State Cup
Hapoel Jerusalem lost 71-61 to Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the second leg of their State Cup round of 16 tie Thursday night, but advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to its 95-61 win in the first leg.
The large margin of victory on Sunday meant that Jerusalem was never troubled Thursday night and rested its players ahead of Tuesday's ULEB Cup opener against Khimki Moscow.
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