(photo credit: Reuters)
Maccabi Tel Aviv advanced to the Euroleague quarterfinals for the eighth time in
nine years on Thursday night.
Maccabi edged Zalgiris Kaunas 70-66 at
Nokia Arena to improve to 3-2 in Top 16 Group H, while Barcelona beat Bennet
Cantu 63-62 to eliminate Tel Aviv's only remaining rival.
by as many as 17 points (30-13) against the Lithuanians, but fought back to take
its first lead of the game in the fourth period before clinching the win in the
final minute after some nerve-wracking moments.
Keith Langford led
Maccabi with 17 points on Thursday night, with Richard Hendrix adding 11 points
and nine boards and Theo Papaloukas coming off the bench to make a crucial
contribution, scoring seven points and dishing out seven assists.
Weems had 20 points for Kaunas.
Despite coach David Blatt's best efforts,
all of the talk of a Maccbai win being a foregone conclusion clearly got to his
players, with the yellow-and-blue desperately lacking intensity to start the
A Weems basket gave Zalgiris an 8-0 lead after two-and-a-half
minutes and Kaunas had little trouble picking apart Tel Aviv's lethargic
defense, with a Paulius Jankunas three-pointer taking the lead to double figures
Blatt's attempts to invigorate his team bore no fruit and DeJuan
Collins's two triples to end the first period extended the margin
Maccabi surely thought matters couldn?t get any worse after
hitting just three of 14 field goals in the first 10 minutes, but Weems opened
the second quarter with five straight points and the yellow-and-blue found
itself in a 17-point hole (30-13).
Papaloukas had scored just seven
points in a total 24 minutes in Maccabi's first four Top 16 games, but he
sparked Tel Aviv back into life in the second period, scoring seven points until
the end of the half and orchestrating the team's play to perfection.
Eliyahu lay-up capped a 12-0 run which brought the hosts within five points
(30-25) and a delightful Papaloukas assist to Hendrix closed the deficit to just
two points (35-33) inside the final minute of the half.
deficit (37-33) at the break surely didn?t worry Maccabi considering the margin
it had already closed, but the hosts stuttered once more at the start of the
second half, missing open shots and allowing Kaunas to regain a double-digit
Milovan Rakovic's basket made it 45-35 with 4:20 remaining in the
period, but Maccabi was still well within striking distance with one quarter to
play, with Papaloukas feeding Hendrix for a dunk to bring the hosts within five
It took Maccabi another minute to take its first lead of the
night, with Keith Langford's three-point play being followed by Devin Smith's
Another Smith basket from beyond the arc took Tel Aviv's
lead to seven points (61-54), but Kaunas wasn?t going to give up without a real
fight, with Salenga's five points bringing the Lithuanians within one point
(63-62) with 3:45 remaining.
Zalgiris was back in the lead with 1:42 to
go after two more points from Weems (66-65), but Langford free throws put
Maccabi back in front and the American guard made it 69-66 with a solo effort
with 24 seconds to play.