Euroleague: Panathinaikos escapes Maccabi TA

Group B leader stays undefeated; Bynum leads Tel Aviv with 22.

maccabi tel aviv 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
maccabi tel aviv 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv gave all it had against Greek giant Panathinaikos in their Euroleague Group B game on Thursday night but at the very end came up agonizingly short, falling 90-88 in Athens. Maccabi's Simas Jasaitis was a fraction of a second away from sending the game into overtime, but the ball left his hands too late and Tel Aviv lost its third straight away game in the Euroleague. Maccabi trailed for most of the game, but never allowed the hosts to open a substantial lead and remained close for the entire 40 minutes. The Israeli champion was led by Will Bynum, who scored 22 points, and by Nikola Vujcic, who had 18 points and seven rebounds. The star for Panathinaikos was once again Mike Batiste, with 21 points. Tony Delk added 17 and Dimosthenis Dikoudis had 13 points. Maccabi got off to a quick start with Jasaitis's and Bynum's three-pointers giving the team a 6-0 lead within the first minute. Batiste got Panathinaikos's first point of the night and followed it up with six more to give his side a 7-6 advantage. Two straight fast-break baskets midway through the first period gave the Greek club a 16-10 advantage and Maccabi was in danger of losing touch. However, the visitors kept pace with Panathinaikos and Derrick Sharp's buzzer-beater at the end of the first period cut the hosts' lead to three points. Fragiskos Alvertis's three-pointer at the start of the second quarter put the hosts up by six points once more and despite the small margin, the Greek club was in control. Panathinaikos was comfortable with its slender lead, but as the period progressed, Maccabi began to eat away at the advantage. A basket from beyond the arc by Sharp was followed by two successful Vujcic free throws and the game was tied at 38-38. Panathinaikos did its best to open up a substantial lead before halftime, but Tel Aviv had no intent of letting the hosts have their own way and the half ended with a 47-45 Pana lead. After two consecutive Maccabi alley-oops at the start of the second half, the hosts quickly regained the lead and a Batiste jumper gave his side a 56-50 advantage. Delk scored on a fast break to give Panathinaikos its biggest lead of the game (59-52), but the resilient visitors took advantage of Delk's flagrant foul and Bynum scored four straight from the foul line to put his team within one point (63-62). Two more points by Bynum with seconds remaining in the third period cut the hosts' lead to 68-65 and sent the game into a tight and decisive final 10 minutes. A steal and basket by Bynum at the start of the fourth quarter tied the score at 69-69. A Vujcic basket gave Maccabi its first lead since the first quarter (73-71). Panathinaikos tied the score immediately and a thundering Batiste dunk gave the Greeks a 78-74 advantage. A smart spin move on the baseline by Dimitrios Diamantidis opened a six-point margin (82-76) for the hosts and Maccabi was running out of time. Vujcic's hook shot cut the deficit to two (84-82), but a Dikoudis dunk renewed the hosts' four-point comfort zone. Two free throws by Noel Felix put the visitors within a single point in the final minute of the game. After Diamantidis missed a free-throw that would have given the hosts a three-point lead with less than five seconds remaining, Vujcic grabbed the rebound and hurled the ball down the court to Jasaitis, whose open layup went in just a fraction of a second after the clock expired.