Maccabi Tel Aviv humbled at home by Zagreb

After being humiliated in Jerusalem earlier in week, yellow-and-blue falls to Croatian underdogs in Euroleague action.

Despite another strong performance by forward Brian Randle, Maccabi Tel Aviv had a surprise 83-73 defeat to Cedevita Zagreb at Nokia Arena. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Despite another strong performance by forward Brian Randle, Maccabi Tel Aviv had a surprise 83-73 defeat to Cedevita Zagreb at Nokia Arena.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s nightmare week continued on Thursday after it dropped to a shocking 83-73 defeat to Cedevita Zagreb at Nokia Arena.
Just four days earlier, the yellowand- blue suffered its heaviest-ever loss in local action, falling by 30 points to Hapoel Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, Maccabi was confident of bouncing back on Thursday. Tel Aviv impressed in an 84-69 victory at Alba Berlin last week and easily won its Euroleague home opener against Limoges by 16 points.
However, it led just once during Thursday’s contest, and that too was only in the first quarter.
Despite coming within striking distance in the fourth period, Maccabi couldn’t overhaul Cedevita.
Zagreb had entered the night at 0-3, but it hit 14 three-pointers and took 14 offensive rebounds to send Maccabi to a defeat that sees it drop to 2-2.
Jeremy Pargo led Maccabi with 24 points and five assists, with Devin Smith adding 14 points and seven boards for the yellow-and-blue, which faces Unicaja Malaga and Limoges on the road in its next two continental contests. Roko Ukic led five Cedevita players in double- figures with 17 points.
Maccabi still looked shellshocked from its humbling loss to Jerusalem at the start of Thursday’s game, with an 11-0 run, capped by a Luka Babic three-pointer opening an early double-digit gap (18-8) for the visitors.
Nemanja Gordic in particular was on fire, taking his personal tally to 10 points with another triple to give Zagreb a 24-15 lead.
Maccabi scored seven of the final nine points of the first quarter to close within four points (26- 22) and four straight points by Sofoklis Schortsanitis to start the second period tied the score.
However, Maccabi couldn’t take the lead, with Ukic completing a three-point move to open a 34-26 advantage.
Pargo alone made sure Maccabi remained within striking distance at the break, scoring seven straight points at one stage to bring the yellow-and-blue within a single point (37-36).
Tel Aviv entered the break down just four points (44-40), but four points by Pargo, taking his tally to 19 on the night, followed by a Smith three tied the score (47-47).
The momentum seemed to be shifting towards Maccabi, but it was Cedevita which had the better of the remainder of the third quarter, going on a 13-2 run to regain a double-figure cushion.
Tel Aviv simply had no answer to the Croatians proficiency from beyond the arc, with Gordic’s fourth three of the game ensuring the visitors took a promising 11-point gap (68-57) into the final 10 minutes.
Maccabi was in trouble, but it responded by holding Zagreb scoreless in the first three-and-ahalf minutes of the fourth frame, cutting the deficit to four points following a Brian Randle basket.
Cedevita eventually rediscovered its accuracy from threepoint range and it never allowed Maccabi any closer than three points. Fran Pilepic hit two crucial triples and nothing was going to deny the Croatians the win after Miro Bilan’s basket opened a 78-71 lead with 1:19 minutes to play.