Long-range proficiency helps Tel Aviv climb back over .500 in Euroleague playoff push.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv remained on track to return to the Euroleague playoffs after claiming a 94-81 victory at Efes Istanbul on Thursday night, improving to a 13-12 record to maintain its hold on eighth place in the standings.Maccabi entered the contest on the back of three defeats in its previous four Euroleague games, while also falling in seven of its last eight continental road contests by an average 17.3 points. But Neven Spahija’s players made the most of a visit to rock-bottom Efes to get back on track and snap a three-game losing streak over all competitions.With a visit to reigning champion Fenerbahce in Istanbul still to come, and with the yellow-and-blue going to Spain for its final two regular season games at Baskonia Vitoria and Valencia, Maccabi knew it could scarcely afford anything but a win against Efes.After a tight first half ended in a one point Maccabi lead (43-42), the visitors opened a small margin in the third quarter and never lost control, winning on the road for just the second time in almost four months.After being rested in Sunday’s BSL defeat to Ironi Ness Ziona, Pierre Jackson scored a team-high 18 points for Tel Aviv, including five three-pointers.Maccabi enjoyed a rare proficient night from beyond the arc, connecting on 15-of-24 three-point attempts (62.5%).Michael Roll added 16 points, including four treys, while also registering seven assists, with Art Parakhouski scoring 14 points and Deshaun Thomas netting 12.AdvertisementSonny Weems, who was cut from Maccabi last season after failing to complete an anti-doping test, had 21 points for Efes, which fell to 6-19.“That was huge for us,” said Roll. “We really needed that win. After a couple of losses in a row we really had to focus and tried to win the 50/50 balls and we shot it well today so that was good.“We have so much talent so when we share the ball it is really hard to stop us,” he added. “Everybody was clicking out there.”Maccabi not only strengthened its position in the top eight on Thursday, but also boosted its chances of finishing higher in the standings and avoiding a playoff series against likely top seed CSKA Moscow, which won by 20 points in Tel Aviv last week.Maccabi closed to within a single game of Khimki Moscow in seventh place after the Russians suffered a surprise 86-77 loss to Olimpia Milano on Thursday. The yellow- and-blue hosts Khimki next Thursday and a victory will take it above the Russians. A trip to Fenerbahce will follow, with Panathinaikos to come to Tel Aviv two days later in the team’s final regular season home game before it caps the campaign in Spain.