Maccabi Tel Aviv's David Blatt 370 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv survived a late scare to overcome Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius 76-74 in dramatic fashion on Thursday night, as a Tyrese Rice basket in the dying seconds won the Euroleague game for the yellow-and-blue.
Having endured a torrid opening to the campaign, Maccabi was hoping to continue its revival in Lithuania on Thursday night.
Maccabi’s coach David Blatt had reasons to be upbeat after last week’s away victory over Lokomotiv Kuban. Having been the subject of severe criticism during Maccabi’s opening games, the importance of another away win could not have been overstated, as he attempted to weather the storm and put an early season crisis behind him.
Surprisingly enough, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius was only one of two European teams to have never lost against Maccabi.
Vilnius, an unpredictable side, stunned Panathinaikos in the competition’s opener, before falling to defeats against Laboral Vitoria and Kuban.
The yellow-and-blue enjoyed a bright first-half before allowing Vilnius, through 19 turnovers, back in the game with an a horrendous third quarter, to force a nervewrecking ending.
Devin Smith led the line for Maccabi with 18 points, with Ricky Hickman contributing 11, and the erratic Sofoklis Schortsanitis netting 10 points, as did Shawn James.
Martynas Gecevicius was the outstanding player for Lietuvos Vilnius with 24 points.
Maccabi opened the game strongly, with Joe Ingles and Hickman hitting two three-pointers each (16-7). Vilnius, however, was not going to let the game slip away cheaply, and managed to end the first quarter at 26-18.
Maccabi was sloppy, and after scoring for fun in the first period, it found the basket harder to come by.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Maccabi came out of a time-out with Yogev Ohayon providing a block at one side of the court before hitting a three at the other, followed immediately by another three from David Blu (34-23).
Rytas Vilnius could not cope with Sofo, who managed a basket under pressure and a three-point play to continue the yellow-and-blue’s momentum and help the visitors to a 45-33 lead at the break.
The third period started with more of the same, with Maccabi increasing its lead to 17 points (54-37).
A flagrant foul by Andreas Glyniadakis ignited the crowd and turned out to be the turning point, as Maccabi started to falter.
Some complacent defending from Maccabi and three-pointers from Milenko Tepic and Renaldas Seibutis put Vilnius firmly back in the game (59-55) as the third period ended.
Gecevicius was in great form, punishing Maccabi on every occasion, however, Smith, back from injury, was on hand to reply with points at the other end.
Vilnius had many chances to go level during the fourth period, as both sides spurned good scoring opportunities, with the score set at 70-66 with 3:34 minutes to play.
Another Gecevicius three put Vilnius ahead for the first time (71- 70) with 1:55 minutes to play.
At 74-71 with 13 seconds left to play, Gecevicius, yet again, sunk a fade-away three-pointer to level the score.
However, Rice, with 3.5 seconds on the clock, made the crucial basket to seal the precious win for Maccabi.