Maccabi Tel Aviv fights back to overcome Khimki Moscow

At 15-8, yellow-and-blue sits 5th in Euroleague heading into road duel with Fenerbahce

MACCABI TEL AVIV swingman Deni Avdija (8) helped neutralize Khimki Moscow guard Alexey Shved (1) on Wednesday night, while also contributing 11 points on the offensive end to help the yellow-and-blue notch a 80-77 Euroleague home victory. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
MACCABI TEL AVIV swingman Deni Avdija (8) helped neutralize Khimki Moscow guard Alexey Shved (1) on Wednesday night, while also contributing 11 points on the offensive end to help the yellow-and-blue notch a 80-77 Euroleague home victory.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Khimki Moscow 80-77 in a thriller at Yad Eliyahu on Wednesday night as the yellow-and-blue improved its Euroleague record to 15-8.
Playing without star guard Scottie Wilbekin, Elijah Bryant and Deni Avdija stepped up for Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad as the dynamic duo came up big throughout the second half.
Maccabi was able to neutralize Khimki superstar Alexey Shved in the second half after the guard had stymied the yellow-and-blue over the course of the first 20 minutes. Lock-down defense and rebounding were also key down the stretch, but important three-point baskets by Tyler Dorsey and Bryant handed the hosts the victory. 
Bryant led all scorers with 21 points, Dorsey added 12 points, Avdija had his best European performance with 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while drawing five fouls, and Othello Hunter notched 10 points in the win.
Shved scored 18 points and added 10 assists for Moscow, Jonas Jerebko chipped in with 17 points and Janis Timma contributed 13 points in defeat.
Sfairopoulos spoke about how his team calmed down at halftime in order to take the hard-fought victory.
“We said that we had to fight. Step by step, play by play. I relaxed the players and they were fighting, but sometimes the pressure is too much. But I loved how they played in the second half. To give up 47 points in one half and 30 in the second is big. With good defense we were able to have rhythm on offense and we scored some transition points, and you saw how we fought to the end and deserved to win the game.”
Avdija, too, voiced his satisfaction after the contest.
“I think it’s the game that we fought hard for and it’s fun for me to help out,” the 19-year-old NBA lottery prospect told The Jerusalem Post. “Coach Sfairopoulos is always talking to us about what we need to improve and what corrections we need to make. We knew we needed to sacrifice defensively and we did that in the second half.”
Maccabi will next face Fenerbahce on Friday, with the Turkish team having won six of its last seven games in continental action and playing its best basketball of the season. Zeljko Obradovic’s squad is in seventh place with an 11-12 record while the yellow-and-blue sits in fifth.
“It was a good game against Moscow,” said MVP Bryant, while also looking ahead. “We have another game to win on Friday. We’ll enjoy this one, but we have to stay focused.”
Shved came out dishing and swishing for Khimki as he scored five points early and handed out four assists, facilitating a pair of triples by Timma.
Maccabi countered with five points from Bryant, but the visitors grabbed an 18-11 lead midway through the first quarter. Sandy Cohen came off the bench for Maccabi to provide a quick spark with a layup and block and Dorsey’s first shot of the night went in from deep, but Shved ended the frame with a three-pointer to give the Russian club a 28-20 lead after 10 minutes of play.
With Bryant back in the game, the BYU product scored a pair of layups to cut the Khimki advantage to 31-26 with 6:40 remaining in the second quarter, which forced Rimas Kurtinaitis to call a time-out. Shved drilled home another triple, Egor Vialtsev scored a layup and Jerebko hit a pair of free throws and added points as well to increase the Khimki lead to 42-31 with under three minutes left in the half.
Stefan Jovic then found the bottom of the basket as did Timma to give the visitors a 47-36 advantage at halftime.
However, Sfairopoulos rallied his troops and Tel Aviv came out on fire to start the third quarter as Bryant led a 12-0 run to start the second half by scoring from the outside and in the paint, while Hunter was a force inside as well to help pull Maccabi even at 50-50 midway through the frame.
Avdija got into the act as he sliced his way to the basket, but Jerebko answered right back with a three-pointer as the intensity on the court continued to heat up. Jerebko kept scoring and Jovic added a triple, but Aaron Jackson drained a long-distance special for Maccabi to keep the game all even at 60-60 after 30 minutes.
Dorsey, who had been very quiet to that point, began the final frame with a corner triple and added another one from beyond the arc, but Timma, Jovic and Vialtsev came right back for Khimki.
Avdija found nothing but net from deep and Bryant put in a layup as Maccabi held a slim 72-70 lead with 4:34 remaining in regulation.
However, Devin Booker, who was playing with four fouls, hit a three-pointer for Moscow, as did Shved to hand a 76-74 advantage back to Khimki with under 90 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
But Dorsey came out of the timeout to hit a triple and Bryant dropped a floater in the lane and added a free throw to give Maccabi the tight three-point triumph.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents (www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi at [email protected].