Wins 83-67 in Spain for first Euroleague away victory of the season.
By ALLON SINAI
For the first time this season Maccabi Tel Aviv returned from a Euroleague away game as a winner on Friday evening, after defeating Unicaja Malaga 83-67 on Thursday night in Spain.
Maccabi, which lost its first three European road games of the season, opened Thursday's match with a 16-4 run thanks to some excellent play by Yotam Halperin. Malaga edged its way back into the game and led by as many as four points (51-47) in the third period.
However, once again Halperin scored at a crucial point and gave Tel Aviv a 65-54 lead after three quarters. The comfortable lead allowed the visitors to control the last 10 minutes of the game.
Halperin led Maccabi with 24 points, five rebounds and four assists in his best game for the club since rejoining Tel Aviv in the summer.
Simas Jasaitis and Lior Eliyahu scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, and helped Maccabi win on an uncharacteristically quiet night for Nikola Vujcic, who only scored eight points.
"This was the win we've all been waiting for," Halperin said at Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday. "Sometimes it's me and sometimes it's somebody else leading Maccabi. On any given day, any player can be the leader. Our goal is to continue progressing and not celebrate too much. We are only at the beginning of the season and we shouldn't think of anything but of the way we will play in January, February and March."
Derrick Sharp, who was crucial in Maccabi's third quarter run, was not surprised by Halperin's play. "He's been practicing well and he deserves to play the way he did," Sharp said on Friday. "We are the same Maccabi we were before. We are constantly learning and becoming more experienced and more mature. We now understand how to play on the road and how to play in different situations."
Hot BSL matchupahead of winter break
The two hottest teams in the BSL, excluding Maccabi Tel Aviv, face each other on Sunday when Elitzur Ashkelon hosts Ironi Nahariya.
Ashkelon has won its last three games after dropping its first three and will face a Nahariya team which was victorious in five of its first six games of the season, only losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv at Nokia Arena.
Ashkelon has been living on the edge in its recent streak, winning its three games by a combined 10 points, while Nahariya has won its five matches by a whopping average of 26.3 points and will be supremely confident on Sunday after trouncing Hapoel Jerusalem by 35 points last week.
Jerusalem has since recovered from the crushing loss against Nahariya, surprising Montepaschi Siena in the ULEB Cup on Tuesday night. Hapoel will hope to transform its good form to the BSL when it hosts Ironi Ramat Gan on Sunday night. Jerusalem has gone from the fabulous to the ridiculous and back in a matter of days several times this season and consistency is on the top of its coach Dan Shamir's agenda.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion finds itself in the unexpected eighth position in the standings and will need to break out of its current three-game slump as soon as possible to escape the relegation zone. Rishon hosts Hapoel Afula/Gilboa, which is one spot below the hosts and has been suffering from its short rotation in recent games.
Bnei Hasharon will look to consolidate its place among the top four on Sunday when it faces last-place Maccabi Givat Shmuel.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Galil Elyon in the final game before the BSL goes on a month-long winter break.
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