Still mathematically in the picture, yellow-and-blue improves to 3-5 with 31-point rout.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv may no longer have a realistic chance of reaching the Euroleague quarterfinals, but its players lived up to their word to continue and fight for as long as it remains technically possible to progress on Thursday, thrashing Montepaschi Siena 92-61 at Nokia Arena.Maccabi was understandably dejected after dropping to its third home defeat of the Top 16 last week with the 82-77 loss to Barcelona, but it showed real grit on Thursday by outplaying one of Group F’s strongest teams to improve to a 3-5 record.“We put on a nice display tonight,” said the understated Yogev Ohayon, who scored 19 points for Maccabi. “We will give our all until the very end in the hope of qualifying.”Devin Smith also scored 19 points for the yellow-and-blue while adding eight rebounds and four assists, with Guy Pnini netting 15 in his best game of the season and David Logan and Shawn James scoring 14 points each.Bobby Brown and Kristjan Kangur had 13 points each for Siena, which dropped to 6-2 and fell well short of the Euroleague-best 83.9 points it had averaged entering Thursday’s encounter.Seina entered the game leading the Euroleague in three-point shooting (41.6%) and free-throw percentage (81.2%), but it was limited to just 30% (7-of-23) from beyond the arc on Thursday, and hit just four of eight attempts from the line.Maccabi plays its next two Euroleague games on the road, visiting Caja Laboral Vitoria next week before going to Fenerbahce Ulker. Four of the yellow-and-blue’s final six group games are away from Tel Aviv, with Maccabi needing to win at the very least four of its remaining contests to have a chance of progressing to the quarterfinals.AdvertisementMaccabi scored the first five points of the night and a Logan three-pointer reestablished the five-point cushion (13-8) with 3:45 remaining in the first period.However, despite coach David Blatt’s relentless preaching to ensure Seina’s every attempt from beyond the arc is at the very least contested, Kangur found himself all alone before hitting a three to tie the score (14-14), with Brown’s basket with four seconds left in the quarter ensuring there was still nothing to separate the teams (22-22) after 10 minutes.The teams exchanged baskets at the start of the second quarter as well, but Maccabi would finally open a significant cushion with a 12-2 run capped by a Pnini triple (37-28) with 2:20 left in the first half.Smith’s free throws extended the margin to double digits (41- 31) and two more points from the line by the American swingman gave Maccabi a promising 46-34 margin at the break.The hosts began the second half the way they finished the first, with five straight Ohayon points being followed by two James baskets to open a 20- point lead (55-35).A Matthew Janning three at the buzzer brought Siena within 16 points (69-53) ahead of the fourth frame and Maccabi took almost three minutes to score its first points of the final quarter.However, the Tuscans could come no closer than 12 points (69-57), with Maccabi clinching its most impressive win of the season by going on a remarkable 21-0 run to open an unassailable gap and keep its lingering hopes alive.
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