Euroleague Basketball: Gershon no Maccabi magic man

New coach loses first game back as Tel Aviv falls 80-73 to Malaga.

Mac  TA Malaga 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Mac TA Malaga 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Pini Gershon returned to the Nokia Arena on Thursday, but Maccabi Tel Aviv lost at home for the first time in the Euroleague this season. Thomas Kelati scored 23 points to lead Malaga to an 80-73 win as the Spanish side got the better of a three-point shooting match. Boniface Ndong, who hit 18 points to end Cibona Zagreb's unbeaten record last week, added 11 points. Carlos Arroyo paced Maccabi with 14 points, Marcus Brown followed with 13 and Tal Burstein added 12. Maccabi is now 2-3 in Group A , while the visitors improve to 3-2. Gershon replaced Effi Birenboim at Maccabi earlier this week after Birenboim was shown the door following an unconvincing start to the season and a humiliating defeat at arch-rival Hapoel Jerusalem. Gershon reached iconic status at Maccabi after leading the team to three continental titles in two spells between 2001 and 2005, but his first game in charge was marked by many of the ills that plagued Birenboim's short tenure. Gershon received a raucous reception from a full house at the Nokia Arena, but the visitors soon silenced the crowd. Omar Cook, Thomas Kelati and Jiri Welsch tormented a Maccabi defense still suffering from the ills that cost Birenboim his job, and the visitors led 28-20 after the first quarter. It was more of the same at the start of the second as Malaga stretched its lead to 16 on a 3-pointer from Joseph Gomis. But Marcus Brown sparked a revival midway through the period, with two quick triples from the post. Malaga coach Aito called a time out, but Tal Burstein went coast-to-coast, Maccabi played Gershon's trademark defense and Carlos Arroyo buried a triple from downtown as the home team pulled back to within a point. Thomas Kelati hit back with a three-pointer and Malaga went to the interval with a 44-40 lead. Maccabi made a nervous start to the third quarter, but D'or Fisher slammed an alley-hoop, Brown sunk a three-pointer, Caspi won a battle in the paint and the home team was ahead for the first time since the third minute. Carlos Jiminez brought Malaga back from the free-throw line and Caspi missed a layup with the buzzer as the visitors went into the final period ahead 62-61. Malaga ran 8-0 at the start of the final period with Ndong Boniface hitting seven straight points, and that proved to be too much of a burden for MAccabi to overcome. Burstein and Kelati traded triples, Gershon took a timeout with three minutes on the clock, Caspi went to the basket to bring Maccabi back to within 3 points, Kelati missed a three-pointer at the other end, but Arroyo missed his chance to level the scores and Kelati went to the line to make it a miserable return for Gershon.