Euroleague: Maccabi TA cruises past AJ Milano

A superb performance in the second half bring the team to a 91-76 win at Nokia Arena; Yotam Halperin scores 24.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
A superb second half defensive performance gave Maccabi Tel Aviv a 91-76 victory over AJ Milano at the Nokia Arena on Thursday night. Maccabi trailed by as many as 12 points during the second quarter and was still down by two points at the break (46-44). The hosts, however, held Milano to just 30 points in the second half and cruised to their fourth straight Euroleague win under Tzvika Sherf. Yotam Halperin led Maccabi with 24 points, scoring seven of 10 from the field. "We knew this game would be difficult," Halperin said. "We have an excellent team and if we maintain this momentum we will achieve great things this season." Alex Garcia and Terence Morris added 14 and 12 points respectively, with Nikola Vujcic scoring 10 points. Danilo Gallinari, who led the visitors with 27 points, gave Milano an early 3-2 lead, but the hosts quickly seized control of the encounter and led by eight points (14-6) midway through the first period. Just when it seemed as though Maccabi was on its way to another dominating performance Milano tightened its defense and took a 17-16 lead thanks to a 11-2 run which was capped by Travis Watson's basket. The Italians extended their lead by the end of the first period (27-23) and surged ahead even further at the start of the second quarter. Tel Aviv failed to score in the first three minutes of the period and Milano opened a 12 points margin (35-23) thanks to the unstoppable Gallinari. Sherf was getting frustrated with his team's offensive incompetence and sent the fit again Vujcic to court. The Croatian's introduction brought immediate results as the hosts closed to within one point of Milano in the final minute of the first half (43-42). The visitors two point halftime lead (46-44) was erased right at the start of the third quarter, with David Bluthenthal's three-pointer giving Maccabi a 50-48 advantage. Tel Aviv would maintain its lead throughout the period, but a pesky Milano side would always remain within touching distance. The hosts would, however, open their first substantial lead in the final seconds of the quarter after Alex Garcia's three (71-65). Points were at a premium at the start of the fourth period, with both teams' struggling to find their rhythm. Crucially, Maccabi was the first to break out of the slump and Garcia's basket from beyond the arc opened a 78-69 lead. Garcia's play on both ends of the court was decisive to the team and Maccabi continued to extend its lead until the end of the encounter, eventually claiming a comfortable win yet again.