(photo credit: Courtesy)
After a depressing week, Maccabi Tel Aviv gave its fans plenty of reasons for
optimism on Thursday night.
The yellow-and-blue defeated Zalgiris Kaunas
86-70 at the Nokia Arena, its first victory of the Euroleague campaign after
being outplayed at Caja Laboral Vitoria in its opener in Spain last
Tel Aviv looked completely hapless last week, but it showed plenty
of potential on Thursday night, both defensively and offensively.
hosts opened a 20-point margin by the break by scoring on fast breaks whenever
given a chance and pushing the ball into Sofoklis Schortsanitis whenever their
transition game stalled.
The Greek center scored 24 points in just 22
minutes, hitting nine of 13 shots and also grabbing five rebounds.
great to play in front of these fans and I just want to give 110 percent
whenever I play,” said Sofo.
Maccabi also got a significant contribution
from big-man Richard Hendrix, who scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds,
with Lior Eliyahu adding 12 points.
One of the keys to Tel Aviv’s win was
its 15 steals in the game, part of the 26 turnovers committed by the
Paulius Jankunas was Zalgiris’ only player to reach
double-figures, scoring 17 points.
Travis Watson scored the first points
of the night to put Zalgiris ahead, but that would prove to be the Lithuanians’
only lead of the game, with Maccabi getting off to a quick start and dictating
an up-tempo pace of play.
The hosts displayed a much improved defensive
game compared to last week and were forcing turnovers and making the most of
every opportunity to score on the fast break.
Sofo in particular was
causing Kaunas all kinds of problems and his seven points helped Maccabi to an
11-0 run, which was capped by Guy Pnini’s basket three-and-a-half minutes into
Tel Aviv held Zalgiris to just four points in the first
six minutes of the game and two more points by its Greek giant increased the
margin to double-digits (15-4).
The visitors hurled the ball from beyond
the arc time and time again, but missed all six of their attempts in the first
quarter, leaving themselves vulnerable on the counter-attack.
took its chances and two three-pointers by Blu within 30 seconds saw Maccabi’s
gap mushroom, with the hosts leading 25-11 after 10 minutes.
An 11-3 run
by Kaunas in the first four minutes of the second quarter brought the visitors
back within striking distance (30-22), but Zalgiris would score just five more
points in the remaining six minutes of the first half.
points by Sofo started a 10-0 run, putting Maccabi in a commanding position once
Sofo would end the first half with 17 points and his
contribution combined with that of Zalgiris’ 15 turnovers meant Maccabi led
47-27 at the break.
Tel Aviv had a much tougher time scoring at the start
of the second half and saw its margin cut to 49-36 after getting just two points
in the first five minutes of the quarter.
Jankunas was causing much of
the damage and his free-throws brought Aco Petrovic’s team back within single
A three-point play by Dainius Salenga in Kaunas’ next
possession cut the deficit to a mere six points, but four consecutive Doron
Perkins points settled Maccabi nerves, and Tel Aviv led 65-51 with 10 minutes to
play after Pnini’s buzzer-beating three.
Good minutes by Hendrix kept
Kaunas at bay at the start of the fourth period and there was only going to be
one winner after Sofo’s dunk gave Tel Aviv a 15-point gap (77-62) with only
three minutes to play.