Euroleague Basketball: Maccabi Tel Aviv improves to 2-1

Yellow-and-blue struggle in narrow win over Pau-Orthez at Nokia Arena.

maccabi ta 298.99 (photo credit: AP)
maccabi ta 298.99
(photo credit: AP)
Despite an overall display that was nothing short of awful, Maccabi Tel Aviv grinded out its second victory of the Euroleague Top 16 on Thursday night by defeating Pau-Orthez 74-70 at Nokia Arena. Maccabi trailed the mediocre French club for large parts of the game and would have lost if not for some good fortune and poor shooting by Pau (39 percent from the field). Tel Aviv held a small lead after the first period, but a solid display by Orthez in the second and third quarters produced a lead that lasted until the last four minutes of the game. Lior Eliyahu led Maccabi with 16 points (13 in the first period), with Nikola Vujcic adding 12 points and 11 rebounds, including two clutch baskets that regained the lead for Maccabi. Pau's Britton Johnsen led all scorers with 20 points (all in the first half) with Aaron Miles contributing 15 points to the visitors' effort. Eliyahu dunked the first points of the game after 30 seconds and everything seemed to be going according to Maccabi's plan after Goran Jeretin hit a three-pointer to give the club an early 7-2 lead. However, besides Eliyahu, who scored 13 points in the first quarter, Tel Aviv struggled on offense, allowing the French club to easily keep pace. Orthez was lethal from beyond the arc in the first period, sinking four out of its six attempts, and took the lead with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the period after Clint Harrison's three. Five straight points by Eliyahu at the end of the quarter ensured Tel Aviv was ahead after 10 minutes, but Maccabi's 23-20 lead didn't last for long. Five consecutive points by Johnsen gave Pau the advantage and Melvin Sanders's basket two-and-a-half minutes into the period capped a 7-0 run. It took Tel Aviv three-and-a-half minutes to score its first points of the second quarter and it trailed throughout the period. Maccabi struggled to hit its open shots and allowed Orthez to score with ease. Johnsen, who prior to Thursday averaged 11.2 points in the Euroleague, racked up 20 points by halftime and his three-pointer with 30 seconds remaining put his team up 40-36. Jeretin cut Orthez's advantage to 40-38 in the remaining seconds, and Maccabi went into the break with plenty to think about. Matters went from bad to worse for Maccabi at the start of the third period after Orthez began the second half with a 10-0 run that gave it a 50-38 lead. Simas Jasaitis's basket from beyond the arc steadied the ship slightly as Tel Aviv cut the margin to 50-43. Michael Wright's layup put Pau up by double digits (54-43) once again midway through the period, but as the quarter came to a close, Tel Aviv edged closer to Orthez and went into the final 10 minutes down 56-50. Tal Burstein's first three points of the game, three-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter, brought Maccabi to within four points of Orthez and it wasn't long before Maccabi regained the lead. Vujcic's basket with four minutes remaining in the game gave Tel Aviv a 64-63 advantage, and Maccabi led the rest of the way. Two points by Derrick Sharp with 35 seconds to go and an outstanding block by Will Bynum ensured the victory, despite one of Maccabi's poorer performances of the season.