Basketball: Maccabi Tel Aviv gains revenge in Zagreb

After erratic start, yellow-and-blue puts Cedevita away to continue building momentum ahead of Top 16.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Brian Randle (L) drives the lane during a game (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Brian Randle (L) drives the lane during a game
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv claimed its fourth Euroleague win in five games on Thursday night, avenging its home defeat to Cedevita Zagreb by beating the Croatians 82-71 on the road to improve to 6-3.
The yellow-and-blue had already clinched a place in the Top 16 last week and looked a little complacent at the start of the night.
However, the reigning champion soon found its form and triumphed for the ninth time in 10 games over all competitions since losing three in a row, including against Cedevita at Nokia Arena.
“We started a little bit shaky in the third quarter, but we began the fourth quarter well and scored some easy baskets,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes.
“I’m happy for the win. This is a very good win in a difficult place against a tough team. We now need to finish the regular season with a home win against Malaga and then we’ll see what group we get in the Top 16. We will need to play better than we have done in the Top 16, but I’m very happy with the team’s progress.”
Devin Smith led Maccabi with 14 points and six rebounds, with Alex Tyus adding 13 points and nine rebounds and Yogev Ohayon contributing 13 points and six assists. Sylven Landesberg scored 12 points, while Nate Linhart more than doubled his previous season-high with 11 points.
“We started the game a little drowsy, but the guys off the bench injected some energy,” said Linhart. “I was happy to get a chance and I felt very good. I’m happy I contributed, but the most important thing is that the team continued to win.”
Fran Pilepic had 22 points for Cedevita, which fell to 2-7.
Maccabi looked half asleep at the start of the game, with Pilepic’s three-pointer opening a 7-0 Cedevita lead, forcing Tel Aviv coach Goodes to call a timeout after just two minutes.
Zagreb’s gap would reach 10 points (15-5) with three minutes to play in the first quarter, but Maccabi would end the period with a 9-0 run to close within a single point (15-14).
With Marquez Haynes not traveling to Croatia due to strained knee ligaments, Linhart was finally given his chance and he made the most of it in the second quarter.
The 28-year-old American forward, who scored a mere total of six points over 17 minutes in the Euroleague until Thursday, began the second frame with a three to give Maccabi its first lead of the night (17-15).
Tel Aviv soon seized complete control, opening a double- digit cushion (31-21) following another Linhart triple.
The hosts closed to within four points thanks to two straight threes, but Linhart shifted the momentum back in Maccabi’s favor with yet another basket from beyond the arc, taking his tally for the game to 11 points.
The visitors took a ninepoint gap (43-34) into the second half and led by 12 points (51-39) before allowing Zagreb back into the game.
The hosts finished the third frame with a 14-3 surge, tying the score at one stage before going into the final 10 minutes down by just a single point (54-53).
However, Maccabi opened the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run to reestablish a double- digit margin (66-56). After yet another mediocre performance, Jeremy Pargo once more showed up in the closing period, with his three giving Maccabi a 10-point gap from which there was no way back for Cedevita.