Euroleague Basketball: Maccabi Tel Aviv triumphs in nail-biter

Eliyahu scores 24 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and passes six assists in what is his best game since becoming a Maccabi player.

lior 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
lior 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
An outstanding Lior Eliyahu performance gave Maccabi Tel Aviv a crucial 88-83 victory over Cibona Zagreb 88-83 at the Nokia Arena on Thursday. Eliyahu scored 24 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and passed six assists in what was his best game since becoming a Maccabi player. Tel Aviv led throughout the first three periods, but failed to kill off the Croats and Cibona pushed the hosts all the way. Pini Gershon's first Euroleague win since returning to Maccabi means the team improves to 3-3 in Group A and moves closer to claiming its place in the top-16. Marcus Brown added 19 points for Maccabi, with D'or Fischer scoring 18 points and taking eight rebounds. Vedran Vukusic led Cibona with 18 points. Good play by Marcus Brown at both ends of the floor at the beginning of the game got Maccabi off to the start it was hoping for, and an Arroyo three-pointer midway through the first quarter gave the hosts a 17-7 lead. Another Arroyo basket to end the first period ensured Maccabi was still ahead by double-figures (29-19) and capped Tel Aviv's best quarter of basketball since Pini Gershon took charge last week. The hosts remained in control of the encounter in the first five minutes of the second quarter, but the final minutes of the first half would belong to Cibona. Vedran Vukusic couldn't stop scoring and the visitors closed to within three points of Maccabi (45-42) by the break. Both teams raised the tempo at the start of the second half, but Maccabi never lost its lead. In the early stages of the half, the hosts opened a 56-44 margin, thanks to a Tal Burstein three, and Maccabi seemed to be in a dominant position. Zagreb would never allow Tel Aviv to extend its lead any further, however, and erased almost the entire deficit by the end of the period. Earl Calloway's triple capped a 9-1 Cibona run to end the third quarter and the Croats only trailed by two points (69-67) with 10 minutes to play. With the momentum well and truly on its side, Cibona surged ahead at the start of the fourth period and pressure was beginning to take its toll on Maccabi. The hosts couldn't buy a basket in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter and Marin Rozic's two points gave the visitors a 73-69 lead. Fischer finally ended Maccabi's barren spell with a three point move to bring the hosts within a single points and a Brown three with five-and-a-half minutes to play in the game gave Tel Aviv the lead once more (75-74). Another Brown basket a minute later opened a three point gap, but Cibona was never far behind, and two Nikola Prkacin points 60 seconds later put the visitors in front once more. The lead continued to exchange hands in the subsequent minutes and a three point Prkacin move with just over a minute to play tied the score at 81-81. The game came down to the final minute and an Arroyo basket with 42 seconds on the clock gave the hosts a crucial advantage. Cibona managed to close on the hosts but clutch free throws by Brown and a missed three point attempt by Calloway ensured Tel Aviv held on to the important win.