Euroleague: Maccabi continues home domination

Tel Aviv claims sixth straight Euroleague victory at Nokia Arena with win over Cibona.

maccabi 224  (photo credit: asaf kliger )
maccabi 224
(photo credit: asaf kliger )
Maccabi Tel Aviv maintained its perfect home Euroleague record on Thursday night, defeating Cibona Zagreb 80-74 at Nokia Arena. Tel Aviv, which has now won six straight European home games and 21 of its last 22, got off to a slow start and trailed by one point after 10 minutes. The hosts, however, outscored Cibona 49-29 in the next two periods and would survive a late scare to clinch the win. "We got a little too relaxed in the fourth period and we've got to learn how to finish off teams," Maccabi captain Derrick Sharp said. "The team is going to need time to continue and grow, but if we stay positive we will be all right." Despite another home victory, Maccabi will need to improve its play considerably to have any chance of claiming a first Euroleague road win at Armani Jeans Milano next week. The yellow-and-blue lost its first two away games by an average 20.5 points and can't afford the lapses in concentration that hampered its play against Zagreb. Sharp and Lior Eliyahu led Maccabi with 12 points, with Marcus Fizer adding 11 points and five rebounds. Alex Garcia and Esteban Batista each added nine points in a game in which player stood out. Chris Warren led the visitors with 19 points and seven rebounds, with Tre Kelley adding 16 points, 10 of them in the fourth period. Fizer gave Maccabi its first lead of the game after two minutes (4-3), and four straight points by Eliyahu opened an 11-5 advantage. The visitors had no intention of losing touch with Tel Aviv so early in the game, and Vedran Vukusic's layup four minutes into the encounter put Cibona ahead once more (14-13). The teams continued to exchange the lead in the remainder of the period and the Croatians would be in front after 10 minutes thanks to Damir Mulaomerovic's buzzer-beating layup (22-21). Vukusic extended Zagreb's margin to three points (24-21) with a basket to start the second quarter, as Maccabi continued to struggle on defense. But the hosts raised their intensity as the period progressed and would hold Cibona to five points until the interval. An 11-2 run, which was capped by David Bluthenthal's three-pointer, gave Tel Aviv a 35-26 lead and the team had an 11-point cushion at the break (40-29). Maccabi would maintain its momentum at the start of the second half and it wouldn't take long to open an unassailable lead. Five straight points for Derrick Sharp opened a 51-36 advantage, and Yotam Halperin's steal and basket midway through the period extended the margin to 23 points (63-40). Tel Aviv took a 17-point cushion (68-51) into the final 10 minutes of the game and seemed to be cruising to a comfortable win. The visitors, however, scored 16 of the first 22 points of the quarter and Warren's four straight points brought his team within seven (74-67). Kelley's basket from beyond the arc closed the margin even further (74-70), but Fizer's two successful free throws gave Maccabi more than 74 points in a game for the first time in the Euroleague this season. Kelley's two points with 36 seconds remaining in the game would cut Maccabi's margin to just three points (77-74) and suddenly the winner of the encounter didn't seem so obvious. But Fizer ended any doubt with a three-point move that secured the victory.