After two seasons, Maccabi Tel Aviv is back in the Euroleague Final
Maccabi thrashed Caja Laboral Vitoria 99-77 at Nokia Arena on
Thursday night, completing a 3-1 series victory in impressive
Tel Aviv needed a dramatic Jeremy Pargo jumper to snatch a
victory in Game 2 in Spain, but dominated the Spaniards in Games 3 and 4 at
Nokia, crushing Vitoria 81-60 on Tuesday before booking its place in European
basketball’s showcase event with another outstanding display on
There was hardly anything to separate the teams throughout the
first half, with Vitoria taking a slender 52- 51 lead into the interval.
However, Maccabi would outscore Caja 28-10 in the third quarter, and despite
having lost Doron Perkins to injury for the rest of the season on Tuesday,
cruised through the final 10 minutes on its way to its eighth Final Four in 12
Maccabi’s opponent in the Final Four semifinal – to be played in
Barcelona on Friday, May 6 – will be the winner of the series between Real
Madrid and Valencia, which will be decided in a Game 5 next Thursday. Valencia
won Game 4 81-72 at home on Thursday.
In Tel Aviv, Jeremy Pargo was
sensational for Maccabi once more, scoring 26 points, including four
three-pointers, while also dishing out seven assists.
Guy Pnini, who
started the game in place of Perkins, added 22 points, with David Blu scoring 17
and Lior Eliyahu contributing 12 for Maccabi, which hit 14 of 21 three-point
Mirza Teletovic had 17 points for Vitoria, with Brad Oleson
A Doron Perkins video message recorded from his hospital bed
was displayed on the arena screens ahead of the tip-off, and Maccabi looked to
be in inspired form at the start of the game despite missing one of its biggest
Pnini gave Tel Aviv an early 4-0 lead with his first points of the
night and Maccabi opened a six-point gap (10-4) after a Lior Eliyahu
However, that would be as big a margin either team would hold in
an extremely tight first half.
A Teletovic three-pointer tied the score
at 11-11 midway through the first period, and the teams traded baskets in the
remainder of the quarter.
Pargo and Teletovic continued their excellent
series, and a three by Maccabi’s Chicago-born guard ensured the hosts had the
edge (25-23) after 10 minutes.
Tel Aviv and Caja combined for an
outstanding 18 of 25 from the field in the first quarter and would continue
their sharp-shooting clinic in the second frame as well.
Teletovic points gave Vitoria the lead (29-27), but Pargo immediately tied the
score with his 14th point of the night, still without missing a shot.
Maccabi was struggling to keep pace with Vitoria’s extraordinary proficiency,
and David Blatt was forced to call a timeout after Marcelinho Huertas’s two
points gave the visitors a fivepoint cushion (36-31).
Blu hit a triple in
Maccabi’s first possession after the time out, but Brad Oleson’s three meant
Caja still held the advantage (43-37).
Just when it started to look as if
Vitoria would surge ahead, Pnini caught fire from beyond the arc and didn’t
allow the Spaniards to extend their margin.
Pnini hit three triples in
two-and-ahalf minutes, giving Maccabi a 49-46 lead with his 16th point of the
game inside the final minute of the first half.
However, Teletovic would
cap a perfect 20 minutes of scoring with a desperate three to beat the buzzer,
taking him to 15 points and giving Vitoria a 52-51 advantage at the
Esteban Batista scored the first points of the second half for
Caja, but Maccabi would respond with a 21-2 run that would give it the
Tel Aviv’s offense continued to fire on all cylinders and its
defense finally managed to slow down Vitoria.
After hardly missing a shot
in the first half, Vitoria couldn’t find the basket at the start of the third
quarter, scoring just two points in more than seven minutes at one
At the other end, Maccabi was getting points from nearly its
entire roster, but especially from Pargo and Blu.
Another three by Pnini
with 4:39 to play in the third frame opened Tel Aviv’s first double-digit lead
of the contest (67-56) and five straight points by Pargo followed by a Blu three
opened a 75-58 gap.
Maccabi was still ahead by 17 points (79-62) with 10
minutes to play and Pargo quickly ended any hopes Caja may have had of making a
The superb guard began the period with five
unanswered points and ensured that after two years, Maccabi would be returning
to the Euroleague Final Four.