Maccabi Tel Aviv can’t pull it out in Milan

Landesberg misses last-second layup as yellow-and-blue opens Euroleague campaign with 99-97 defeat.

Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Andrew Goudelock (center) (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Andrew Goudelock (center)
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague campaign began with a dramatic defeat on Thursday night, losing 99-97 to Olimpia Milano after Sylven Landesberg missed a contested layup at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime.
Despite a roller-coaster preseason and the absence of the injured Sonny Weems, Maccabi was hopeful of opening its account with a confidence-boosting road win. There was nothing to separate the teams at the halftime break (44-44), but Milano pulled ahead in the third quarter and led by double digits in the closing frame.
Maccabi fought back in the final minute and had a chance to force overtime in the final second, only for Landesberg to be blocked at the basket.
Maccabi hosts Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid next week, but even should it fall to another defeat it has no reason to feel any pressure, with the Euroleague’s format undergoing a dramatic change this season.
Only 16 teams are taking part in the competition, with each side to play 30 regular season games before the top eight in the standings advance to the quarterfinal playoffs. The winners will participate in the Final Four.
Andrew Goudelock led Maccabi with 27 points, with Devin Smith adding 18 points and Landesberg finishing with 15.
Former Maccabi guard Ricky Hickman had 22 points for the winners.
Maccabi was making its first return to the arena in Milano since it won the Euroleague title at the Mediolanum Forum in 2014. Devin Smith was part of that triumphant roster and he got Thursday’s game off to a fast start, scoring eight straight points to give Tel Aviv an early 12-8 lead.
The hosts replied with a 12-2 run to move in front, but Maccabi scored 10 of the next 13 points and the tight first period ended with Milano ahead 25-24.
Maccabi knew it had to do better on defense in the second period after Milano netted 8-of-13 two-point field-goal attempts, but while it held the hosts to 19 points, it could only manage 20 of its own and the score was tied at 44-44 at the break.
The teams were separated by no more than six points in the first half, but Milano would seize the initiative after the interval.
A Zoran Dragic three-pointer opened a seven-point gap (55-48) which grew to double digits midway through the frame after former Maccabi player Milan Macvan netted consecutive baskets to make it 59-48.
After erasing an 11-point deficit against Ironi Nahariya with just over a minute to play in regulation in its BSL opener earlier this week, Tel Aviv was not going to throw in the white towel in Milano, and a 9-0 surge over 45 seconds capped by a Sylven Landesberg layup brought the yellow-and-blue back within a single possession (59-57).
Maccabi couldn’t build on the momentum swing though, with Alessandro Gentile’s basket to end the third frame giving the hosts a seven-point cushion (72-65) entering the final 10 minutes.
A Macvan three early in the fourth quarter reestablished a double-digit margin (77-67), with Maccabi struggling to get stops on defense. When the yellowand- blue finally managed to stop the Italians it couldn’t convert at the other end, cutting the deficit to five points with just under three minutes to play.
Goudelock did all he could to keep Maccabi in touch, with his three bringing the team within three points (98-97) before two Smith’s free throws following a steal made it a one point game with 8.1 seconds remaining.
Hickman missed one of two attempts from the line with 3.9 seconds left to hand Maccabi a lifeline, but Landesberg couldn’t convert and Maccabi lost.