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(photo credit: )
A standout performance by Nikola Vujcic led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a 92-75 win over DKV Joventut Badalona in a Euroleague Group B game at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
Tel Aviv, which has now won 11 straight matches at Nokia, began the match with a remarkable 26-5 first period and despite the Spanish team coming as close as three points in the third quarter, the hosts maintained their lead for the entire 40 minutes and wrapped up what was in the end a comfortable victory.
"We had a great first quarter, but basketball isn't played for just one quarter. The most important thing is that we won," Vujcic said after the game.
In addition to Vujcic's 20 points and 10 rebounds, Will Bynum scored 17 points and had seven assists and Lior Eliyahu once again was outstanding, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Simas Jasaitis and Yotam Halperin added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Badalona was led by Lubos Barton, who scored 20 points and took five rebounds, with Charles Gains adding 16 points and seven rebounds. Teenager Ricard Rubio played 21 minutes and had a crucial part in his club's attempted comeback. Rubio displayed a vast array of skills and showed why he's playing in the Euroleague at only 16.
Vujcic got the first points of the game with a dunk, a sign of the things to come. Maccabi was scoring at will with Badalona struggling on offense and within four minutes, the hosts already had a substantial lead (13-3).
The margin continued to grow with the Tel Aviv defense stopping the Spanish team time after time. A Bynum three-pointer with two minutes to go in the first quarter put Maccabi up 25-3 and Joventut was in a state of shock. The period ended with Tel Aviv ahead 26-5.
Badalona coach Aito Reneses introduced Rubio at the end of the first quarter with the hope that the teenager would change things. Rubio exchanged three pointers with Bynum at the start of the second period, but the hosts' large lead remained intact (32-10).
Rubio continued to impress and led his team on an 8-0 run that was concluded by a Barton basket from a Rubio assist.
Maccabi had no intention of allowing Badalona back into the game and a Jasaitis basket from beyond the arc gave the team an 18-point lead (38-20) midway through the second quarter. Another Jasaitis three with just over a minute remaining gave Tel Aviv a 48-31 lead. However, the visitors scored the last five points of the half and the teams went into the interval with a 48-36 Maccabi lead.
Badalona ate away at the Maccabi lead at the start of the second half and a Gains basket closed the gap to just six points (50-44). Tel Aviv was having difficulties on offense and a three-point move by Barton put the visitors within three (52-49) midway through the period.
A four-point play by Derrick Sharp broke the Spanish team's spirit.
Maccabi continued to increase its lead and an Eliyahu dunk with three minutes to go in the quarter regained the hosts' double-digit lead (60-50). The margin grew even bigger in the final minutes of the quarter, thanks to Vujcic and the period ended 72-58.
Badalona tried in vain to close in on Maccabi at the start of the final period, but nothing the Spanish team tried worked and another basket from beyond the arc, this time by Sharp, put the yellow-and-blue 16 points ahead and secured Maccabi's win.
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