Mac TA playoff hopes suffer major blow

Yellow-and-blue falls to home defeat to Khimki Moscow and drops back to .500

Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deshaun Thomas (center) scored 16 points last night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 94-91 defeat to Malcolm Thomas and Khimki Moscow at Yad Eliyahu Arena. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deshaun Thomas (center) scored 16 points last night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 94-91 defeat to Malcolm Thomas and Khimki Moscow at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv dropped to what could prove to be a decisive defeat in its hunt for a Euroleague playoff berth, losing 94-91 to Khimki Moscow at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night to fall to a 13-13 record.
A win over Khimki would not only have significantly improved Maccabi’s chances of clinching a top-eight finish, but would also have given it a realistic hope of avoiding powerhouse CSKA Moscow in the quarterfinals.
But instead of leapfrogging Khimki, it dropped two games behind the Russians and has still got plenty of work to do just to reach the post-season.
Pierre Jackson had 25 points and seven assists for Maccabi, with Deshaun Thomas adding 16 points.
Anthony Gill scored 24 for Khimki, with Alexey Shved netting 22.
Maccabi plays three of its final four regular season games on the road, visiting reigning champion Fenerbahce in Istanbul next Tuesday before hosting Panathinaikos in its final home game two days later.
The yellow-and-blue will end the regular season with two away games at Baskonia Vitoria and Valencia.
Khimki scored the first six points of the second period after a tight first quarter (21-19) to take an eight-point lead (27-19) and an Egor Vialtsev’s three-pointer midway through the frame opened a double- digit gap (36-25). Maccabi closed to within three points before Khimki scored the final points of the first half to take a five-point edge (44-39) into the break.
Maccabi struggled to protect the paint, with Malcolm Thomas, who played for the yellow-and-blue in 2012/13, scoring 10 points in the third quarter alone to keep the visitors in front.
Tel Aviv ultimately tightened its defense under the basket and Thomas’s three-pointer with 41 seconds left in the period gave the hosts their first lead (66- 65) of the second half.
Maccabi couldn’t carry the momentum into the final 10 minutes, with Khimki leading by five points (80-75) with five minutes to play after a Stefan Markovic triple.
Jackson took over the game for Maccabi in the closing minutes, with two straight threes by the American guard tying the score at 84-84 with 1:20 minutes to play.
However, Gill’s triple with 36.8 seconds remaining opened a crucial 89-86 lead, and after Maccabi couldn’t connect at the other end, the forward dunked two more points with 17.3 seconds to play to open a five-point cushion from which Maccabi couldn’t return.
The defeat to Khimki started a fourgame stretch over seven days for Maccabi, which will already be back in action on Saturday when it hosts Hapoel Holon in a showdown for first place in the BSL standings.
Maccabi and Holon both have a 15-4 record, with Holon beating the yellowand- blue in their two previous meetings this season. After Tel Aviv won its first eight BSL games of the season, Holon handed it a first local defeat at Yad Eliyahu Arena back in December, winning 93-89. The teams also met in the State Cup final at Yad Eliyahu last month, with Holon winning 86-84 thanks to a spectacular basket by Glen Rice Jr. with 1.6 seconds to play.
Stopping Rice will be a priority for Maccabi on Saturday, with the forward registering 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the cup final and leading Holon to a sixth straight league win last week with 32 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a 92-87 victory over Ironi Ness Ziona.
Elsewhere Saturday, Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Ashdod.
Ahead of Thursday’s game, Maccabi inducted Devin Smith into the club’s hall of fame. Smith, who played a key role in the club’s march to the 2014 Euroleague title, retired last summer at the age of 34, with injuries shortening his career.