Euroleague: Maccabi humbled by Zalgiris in Lithuania

Tel Aviv loses first Euroleague game under Tzvika Sherf by 19 points.

MAC TA zalgiris 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
MAC TA zalgiris 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Final Four aspirations suffered a hefty blow on Thursday night in Lithuania when the Israelis were humbled 101-82 by Zalgiris Kaunas, suffering its first Euroleague loss since Tzvika Sherf took charge. The team had won six straight European games under the veteran coach, but a 31-14 third quarter by Zalgiris gave Tel Aviv no chance of extending its winning streak to seven. Maccabi (1-1), which hosts Real Madrid in its first home game of the Top-16 stage next Thursday, couldn't cope with the absence of Marcus Fizer and Nikola Vujcic against Kaunas, losing the battles in the paint time and again. The Lithuanians out-rebounded the visitors 45-26, and grabbed a massive 20 offensive rebounds. Esteban Batista did all he could to fill the void under the baskets, but his 25 points and 13 rebounds were no more than a consolation for Sherf, who will have to manage without Fizer for the entire season, but could get Vujcic back by next week. Will Bynum scored 13 points for Maccabi, with Vonteego Cummings adding 11 points. Jonas Maciulis led five Zalgiris players in double-figures with 22 points and seven rebounds, with the Euroleague's all-time leading scorer Marcus Brown scoring 19 points. The hosts scored the first points of the night and held a slender lead at the start of the first period. Maccabi pulled ahead as the quarter progressed, with a Cummings three-pointer giving the team its first lead of the game (10-9) and a triple by Morris opening a 17-11 margin. A 9-2 run, which was capped by Goran Jurak's three-point move, gave Zalgiris the lead once more, but the visitors took a five-point gap into the second quarter (26-21) thanks to a Bynum three. Bynum was at the center of a Maccabi run in the second period, with his basket from beyond the arc four minutes into the quarter extending his side's margin to a game high 12 points (40-28). The next few minutes of the encounter would, however, belong to the hosts, who regained the lead with a 20-6 run (48-46). Batista, who scored 18 points in the first half, tied the score ahead of the break (48-48), but within just five second half minutes Kaunas all but clinched the win with sensational three-point shooting. Zalgiris scored three of four from beyond the arc by the midway point of the third period, with Marko Popovic's triple widening the hosts' advantage to 67-55. Maccabi's nightmare quarter got worse and worse as it drew to a close and a complete defensive breakdown in the final seconds allowed Mamadou N'diaye to give Kaunas a 79-62 lead with a thunderous dunk at the buzzer. There was to be no dramatic comeback for Tel Aviv in the fourth period, as Zalgiris pulled further and further ahead on its way to a humiliating rout of the hobbling Maccabi. "This is a very significant defeat," Sherf said after the game. "We stopped doing what we should have after 15 minutes and completely failed on offensive rebounds. We couldn't stop their three-point shooting in the second half and our entire game plan fell to pieces." "We had a good first half, but they scored some amazing shots after the break," Batista said. "We just stopped defending in the second half and they changed their defense and that worked for them. We lost to a good team and now we need to win all our remaining games."