(photo credit: Asaf kliger)
Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius recorded its fourth straight victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Thursday night, ending the yellow-and-blues' seven-game home win streak.
The Lithuanians won 87-82 at the Nokia Arena almost two years to the day they cut short a Maccabi 10-game home win streak.
The visitors, who improve to 7-2, scored on almost every possession in the closing stages of the game and have seriously dented Tel Aviv's hopes of a top two finish in Group B.
Marcus Fizer led Maccabi (6-3) scoring 15 points, with David Bluthenthal and Esteban Batista each adding 14 points. Chuck Eidson led Rytas with 28 points and Hollis Price added 19, including two decisive three-pointers in the last 38 seconds.
The capacity crowd at the Nokia Arena had to wait two-and-a-half minutes for the first points of the game, with Price hitting a three-pointer to give the visitors the lead. Matt Nielsen's basket from beyond the arc extended Rytas' margin to four points (8-4), but Yotam Halperin's triple capped a 10-2 run that gave the hosts a 14-10 lead.
The hard-working Vilnius had no intention of losing touch with Tel Aviv, and the team fought back to take a 22-20 lead after Nielsen's two successful free throws.
Maccabi would score the final five points of the first period (25-22) and the first five of the second quarter to open its biggest lead of the first half (30-22). Once more, however, Rytas's well balanced roster clawed its way back into the game. Kenan Bajramovic's free throw tied the score (35-35) and a 7-0 run, which was capped by Eidson's three, opened a 42-37 lead.
Alex Garcia's basket at the buzzer brought Maccabi back within one point at the break (42-41). Garcia's steal and dunk followed by Vonteego Cummings' three gave Maccabi a 52-44 lead and Fizer free throws soon after increased Tel Aviv's margin to nine points, its biggest of the game.
A quick 7-0 Vilnius run would, however, cancel out all of Maccabi's hard work, cutting the hosts' advantage to just two points (56-54).
Maccabi's three-point lead with 10 minutes to play (64-61) vanished at the start of the fourth period after Eidson scored five straight points to give his side a 68-64 lead.
Four consecutive points by the reliable Terence Morris quickly tied the score and a Cummings triple put the hosts ahead once more (71-69).
The teams continued to trade baskets as the encounter drew to a close, but a decisive stop on defense for the visitors would prove to be the turning point of the game.
Maccabi couldn't stop Rytas from scoring and Price's three with less than a minute remaining opened an 84-80 lead from which Tel Aviv would not return.
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