Euroleague Basketball: Maccabi overpowers Olympiacos in TA

Three weeks of training since its last continental encounter does Maccabi a world of good.

Maccabi Tel Aviv claimed its first impressive European victory of the season on Thursday night, defeating Olympiacos 96-83 at the Nokia Arena. The three weeks of training since its last continental encounter did Maccabi a world of good. The team was far sharper on offense than it had been a month ago, and its level of composure on defense was as good, or even better, than it has been all season long. Carlos Arroyo led the team with 20 points, five assists and five rebounds, with Lior Eliyahu adding 18 points and eight rebounds. D'or Fischer scored 15 points and 10 rebounds, with Marcus Brown and Omri Casspi scoring 15 and 14 points respectively. "We brought our energy and our focus. We've been getting ready for this game for a long time," Arroyo said in the locker room after the game. "I think we can continue to have nights like this. We have the right mentality, the right talent. To have everybody contribute is important. "Hopefully this game can show how good we can be. It is a new year for everybody." Josh Childress scored 15 points for the visitors, with Yotam Halperin, who together with Nikola Vujcic was playing his first official game in Tel Aviv since leaving the club in the summer, adding 14 points. Next week, Tel Aviv visits Unicaja Malaga and can clinch second place in Group A with an eight-point victory in Spain. Maccabi could in theory end the first round in first position, but that scenario is highly unlikely as it would require Olympiacos to lose at home to Le Mans next week as well as an eight-point Tel Aviv win over Malaga. Despite the troubles in the South, the Nokia Arena was packed as ever, with the fans in an especially patriotic mood, unfolding a massive Israel flag ahead of the game and waving smaller versions throughout the encounter. Maccabi burst out of the blocks, opening an early 8-1 lead with the game just over two minutes old. The team was executing Pini Gershon's game plan to perfection, running whenever it had the chance, and Marcus Brown's three-pointer after four minutes gave the hosts a 13-6 advantage. Olympiacos ate away at the deficit as the quarter progressed, but an acrobatic Tal Burstein basket to end the period made sure Maccabi remained comfortably ahead at the start of the second quarter (25-19). The Greeks never lost touch with Tel Aviv, however, and the last couple minutes of the first half belonged to Olympiacos with the visitors scoring 12 of the final 16 points to close to within a mere two points at the break (47-45). Maccabi began the second half much like the first, and didn't take long to open a double-digit margin. An 11-0 run to start the third period, capped by five consecutive Fischer points, sent the crowd wild and the side continued to increase its lead as the quarter progressed. Tel Aviv was almost scoring at will and excellent work on the defensive end saw the team open a record 16-point gap (72-56) with two minutes to play in the quarter. While the Greeks got back into the game in the final quarter, four straight Omri Casspi points opened a significant gap (80-67) and two more Lior Eliyahu baskets soon after gave Maccabi a 15-point lead (84-69) from which there would be no return for Olympiacos.