Euroleague: Maccabi Tel Aviv escapes Partizan

Yellow-and-blues fall behind early, hold on late at Nokia Arena.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv won its 13th straight home game and consolidated its hold onto second place in Euroleague Group B by defeating Partizan Belgrade 85-83 on Thursday night at Nokia Arena. Partizan guard Vonteego Cummings had a chance to win the game for the Serbian club in the final seconds, but his three-pointer went off of the rim. The hosts lacked composure on defense and especially on offense at the start of the game, allowing Belgrade to race to an 18-3 advantage. However, a 26-12 third quarter led by Derrick Sharp gave Tel Aviv a lead it would hold onto until the final buzzer. "All we want is to win and we don't care by how many points," Sharp said after the game. "We deserved to win this game." Sharp led Maccabi with 22 points, with Nikola Vujcic scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Yotam Halperin and Simas Jasaitis added 14 and 11 points, respectively, with the Israeli also grabbing five rebounds. "This was a tough game and I was worried about it because of our many problems," Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said after the game. "We must play better if we want to continue to advance in the Euroleague." Partizan veteran Predrag Drobnjak had 23 points and 16 rebounds with youngster Uros Tripkovic scoring 20 points. Maccabi's highly-ranked offense struggled at the start of the game and Partizan opened an early lead. Cummings' three-pointer gave the visitors a 10-3 lead after four minutes, with Maccabi struggling to find its rhythm. Kosta Perovic's three-point move put Partizan up 18-3. A 7-0 Tel Aviv run helped Maccabi come back to within 10 at the end of the first quarter (22-10). Partizan continued to increase its advantage at the start of the second quarter and Luka Bogdanovic's three two-and-a-half minutes into the quarter gave the club a 16-point lead once again (29-13). Maccabi began to find its range midway through the second quarter and a 16-2 run put it back within striking distance of Belgrade. Tel Aviv began the second half with a Halperin score from beyond the arc that cut the lead to four points (41-37) and it wasn't long before the hosts took their first lead of the game. A three-point move by Sharp midway through the period put Maccabi ahead 46-45, giving the team a lead it would not relinquish. Sharp was Tel Aviv's primary factor on offense and on defense in the third quarter. His three-pointer with twoand-a-half minutes to go in the quarter gave Maccabi a 53-47 advantage. Three successful free throws by Jasaitis in the closing stages of the third period and a three-pointer by Will Bynum at the beginning of the fourth gave the hosts their first double-digit lead of the game (63-53). After Partizan fought back to reduce the deficit to just two points, Cummings missed his three-pointer in the final seconds of the game.