Euroleague Basketball: Maccabi TA lets Partizan steal Game 1

Up 14 at the half, yellow-and-blue collapses down the stretch to fall 85-77 at Nokia.

doron perkins 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
doron perkins 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s hopes of reaching the Euroleague Final Four suffered a crushing blow on Tuesday night when the yellow-and-blue fell to a heart-wrenching 85-77 defeat to Partizan Belgrade in Game 1 of the best-of-five quarterfinals series at the Nokia Arena.
Maccabi led by as many as 21 points in the first half and was still ahead by 15 points midway through the third period. However, Belgrade cut the margin to just eight points with 10 minutes to play and took the lead in the final five minutes to claim a priceless road victory.
“We made too many mistakes in the second half,” said Maccabi coach Pini Gershon, whose team hosts Game 2 on Thursday. “We missed a great opportunity.”
Doron Perkins led four Maccabi players in double-figures with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds, but his performance will be remembered for his missed shots which could have tied the game in the final two minutes.
Alan Anderson added 12 points for Tel Aviv, which was held to 11 points in the final 10 minutes and will now have to win on the road next week to have any chance of reaching the Final Four.
Dusan Kecman was unstoppable for the visitors, scoring 29 points, hitting seven of nine three-point attempts.
A slow starter all season long, Maccabi was adamant on beginning Thursday’s game in the best way possible way. A quick 11-0 run, capped by a Perkins three-point play, gave the hosts an early double-figure margin (13-3) and Tel Aviv continued to pull ahead as the period progressed.
With Anderson picking up two early fouls, it was Andrew Wisniewski, Chuck Eidson and D’or Fischer who powered Maccabi’s surge and Gershon’s men ended a dream first quarter with a 27-12 lead.
The second period was a direct continuation of the first, with Belgrade having no answer to Tel Aviv’s suffocating defense and the hosts scoring almost at will at the other end.
An Eidson dunk extended the margin to 34-13 a little over three minutes into the second quarter to give Maccabi its biggest lead of the night, but Partizan made some inroads into the gap in the closing stages of the frame and, considering all that transpired in the half, was relatively happy to go into the break down by 14 points (46-32).
A Jan Vesely three-pointer followed by two points from Aleks Maric brought the visitors within single-digits (46-37) once more at the start of the second half, but Maccabi quickly reopened a comfortable cushion.
Anderson was beginning to find his range and a Fischer basket midway through the third increased the advantage to 58-43.
However, the Serbs soon began to breach the Tel Aviv defense time and again and Kecman’s 21st, 22nd and 23rd points of the night on a three cut the lead to a mere six points (64-58).
Perkins’s basket to end the quarter restored some confidence, but treys by Aleksandar Rasic and Lawrence Roberts to begin the fourth period brought the visitors within one possession (66-64).
Partizan could not miss from beyond the arc and two more long rangeefforts by Roberts and Kecman gave the Serbs a 70-67 advantage with5:30 to play.
The lead would exchange hands several times in the following minutes,but the visitors were coping with the pressure better and SlavkoVranes’s basket from an offensive rebound opened a four-point margin(79-75) with just over two minutes to play.
With Anderson struggling, the responsibility to finish off Maccabi’sattacks fell on Perkins’s shoulders, but the American playmaker couldnot come up with the goods.
Tel Aviv had a couple of chances to tie the game, but the ball refusedto fall and Maccabi’s Final Four dream was dealt a massive setback.