Mac TA defeats Barca to close on playoffs

Yellow-and-blue squanders double-digit lead before triumphing with late run

Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Jonah Bolden (center) dunks during last night’s win over Barcelona in Euroleague action at Yad Eliyahu Arena. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Jonah Bolden (center) dunks during last night’s win over Barcelona in Euroleague action at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv reestablished a two-game gap in the battle for Euroleague playoff qualification on Thursday night, beating Barcelona 94-82 at Yad Eliyahu Arena to improve to a 12-10 record with its third win from the past four games.
Maccabi’s victory over Barcelona combined with Baskonia Vitoria’s 80-76 loss at Panathinaikos means the yellow-andblue holds a two-game cushion over its main rival for a top-eight finish, with eight regular season games to play.
Tel Aviv led by double digits in the first half, but Barcelona, which was playing for the first time since the sacking of coach Sito Alonso, fought back to take the lead (68-67) early in the fourth quarter.
However, after scoring only four points in the first three periods, Maccabi guard Pierre Jackson stepped up in the final 10 minutes, netting 14 points, for a team-high 18 in the game, to ensure the hosts claimed a crucial home win.
Neven Spahija’s side won for the eighth time in its past 10 games at Yad Eliyahu after falling last week at Zalgiris Kaunas for what was its sixth loss in seven road contests.
Only three of Maccabi’s final eight regular season games will come at home.
Norris Cole added 14 points, six assists and five rebounds. Thomas Heurtel had 18 points for Barcelona, which fell to 7-15.
Maccabi had just seven points in the first five minutes of the game and trailed by as many as nine points (20-11) following an Adrien Moerman three-pointer.
Barcelona would be held to just five points over the next seven minutes though, while Tel Aviv scored 24 to open a double-digit margin.
Cole orchestrated the show, with his spectacular assist to Jonah Bolden ending with a dunk and opening a 35-25 Maccabi lead.
The hosts held an eight-point margin (46-38) at the break, but struggled offensively to start the second half, with Rakim Sanders’s triple tying the score at 53-53. Maccabi would reply with an 12-2 run, with seven of those points being scored by DeAndre Kane, who entered the game only averaging 6.1 points per contest.
The yellow-and-blue couldn’t build on the momentum, with Barca netting the final six points of the third frame to make it a four-point game (65-61) with 10 minutes to play. Pau Ribas erased the entire deficit with a single four-point play to start the fourth quarter after being fouled while scoring a three. Another triple by the Spanish guard gave Barcelona a 68-67 lead, its first of the second half, with 8:45 remaining in the contest.
Maccabi never lost its cool, responding by scoring 14 of the next 18 points of the game, with Cole’s basket opening a ninepoint cushion (81-72) with just over four minutes to play. The visitors would close to within five points (83-78), but Jackson ensured Maccabi held on for what could prove to be a crucial triumph by the end of the regular season.