(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv suffered its first home Euroleague defeat in more than a year on Thursday night, dropping a 79-68 clunker to Tau Vitoria in their first Top 16 Group D game at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
Maccabi had won 15 consecutive European games in Tel Aviv since its 92-86 loss to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius on December 8, 2005, but on Thursday, its recent poor form finally caught up with it in the Euroleague.
Igor Rakocevic led the Spanish club with 19 points - including 16 in the first quarter - with Serkan Erdogan adding 14 points.
Nikola Vujcic was only two assists short of a triple-double, scoring 12 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and supplying eight assists. Lior Eliyahu led Maccabi with 17 points and also had seven rebounds.
Maccabi was unable to slow down the visitors' offense at the start of the game, with Rakocevic especially unstoppable. The Serbian sharpshooter gave his side a nine-point lead (13-4) with a three-pointer after three minutes and made sure the hosts were kept at bay.
Tel Aviv made up for its defense struggles with a good offensive display and Derrick Sharp's basket from beyond the arc brought the hosts to within three points (27-24).
Rakocevic's 16th point of the first period put Tau ahead 30-24 as the quarter came to a close.
Erdogan opened the second period with a three that gave Vitoria a nine-point advantage (33-24), but as the quarter progressed, Maccabi tightened its defense and allowed only five points over the next nine minutes.
For some reason, when Tel Aviv seemed to get some defensive momentum, its offense suffered so Tau was able to hold onto its lead.
Both teams scored only eight points each in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, but five straight points by Jamie Arnold as the half came to a close put Maccabi within one point (38-37) at halftime.
Sharp's three at the beginning of the second half was a sign of things to come, as Tel Aviv opened up a comfortable lead midway through the third quarter.
Two successful free throws by Tal Burstein gave the team a seven-point (50-43) advantage, as Vitoria still struggled on offense.
However, the Spaniards broke out of their slump in the second half of the period and a 14-4 run helped them regain the lead and take a three-point cushion (57-54) into the final 10 minutes.
The visitors continued to dominate at the start of the fourth quarter and two straight threes by Tau's Turks, Erdogan and Ender Arslan, gave them a 65-56 lead.
An 8-2 Tel Aviv run brought the hosts back a little, but Vitoria maintained the advantage, with a Pablo Prigioni triple opening a six-point gap (73-67) with three minutes to play.
Rakocevic scored his first points since the first quarter with two-and-a-half minutes left in the fourth period and the hosts lost control of the game.
Tel Aviv failed to close in on the Spaniards in the last two minutes of the game and crashed to its first home defeat in the Euroleague this season.
Wednesday's result: Lottomatica Roma 78, Pau-Orthez 68. Thursday: Tau Vitoria 79, Maccabi Tel Aviv 68.
Maccabi TA017879 -11
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