Inauspicious start for Maccabi TA in Euroleague

Blatt’s squad falls 94-78 at Caja Laboral, saves face only after big fourth quarter.

MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Doron Perkins (photo credit: Courtesy)
MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Doron Perkins
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Any notion that Maccabi Tel Aviv was ready to compete with Europe’s best was put to rest in painful fashion on Thursday night.
Maccabi was thrashed 94- 78 by Caja Laboral Vitoria in its Euroleague opener in Spain, with the final score not doing the Spanish champion’s dominance justice.
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Vitoria opened the game with a 26-6 run, making David Blatt’s overhauled Maccabi team look very ordinary.
Tel Aviv did save some pride by outscoring Vitoria 29-18 in the fourth period, but it still trailed by double-digits throughout the quarter, leaving Blatt with much to ponder ahead of next week’s home opener against Zalgiris Kaunas.
The only other consolation for Blatt will be the fact that he discovered the true size of the task he faces after only a single game and will have plenty of time to improve matters.
However, if Thursday’s encounter was any indication, all the time in the world may not be enough to turn Maccabi into a Euroleague challenger.
“We began the match terribly,” Blatt said. “I can give plenty of excuses for our performance, but we simply didn’t show up for the first half. We hadn’t played against a team that scores like this and plays at this kind of pace until now. We didn’t react to it the way we should have.
“We corrected some things at halftime, but it was already far too late. We did some nice things in the second half, but overall this was an unacceptable performance.”
Chuck Eidson was Maccabi’s only player to score in double-figures, contributing 14 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Sofoklis Schortsanitis played for less than 12 minutes and scored nine points for Tel Aviv, which shot an appalling 12 of 26 from the free-throw line.
David Logan led six Vitoria players in double-figures with 25 points. Mirza Teletovic added 16 points and eight rebounds, including four three-pointers.
Teletovic’s triple to start the game was a sign of things to come, with the hosts blowing Maccabi off the court right from the tipoff by scorching the Israelis from beyond the arc.
A combination of poor perimeter defense and exceptionally accurate shooting made Tel Aviv look helpless, with Vitoria hitting six of seven threes in the first period.
Making matters even worse was the fact that Maccabi struggled desperately while in its set offense, failing to create scoring opportunities.
Another Teletovic three opened a 15-6 gap and was the start of a 14-0 run after which the hosts led 26-6.
Logan and Stanko Barac were also getting in the act, and the Spanish champion was still ahead by 20 points (31-11) after 10 minutes.
Maccabi’s offensive showed a slight improvement in the second period, but Tel Aviv had no answer for Martin Rancik in the paint, and Blatt’s men never came close to mounting a comeback, with Vitoria cruising to a 57-32 halftime lead.
The third period would provide no solace for Blatt, with Vitoria taking a 76-49 lead into the final 10 minutes.
However, Tel Aviv began the fourth frame with a 13-0 run, holding the hosts without a point for more than four minutes.
Tal Burstein and fellow Israelis Guy Pnini and Yaniv Green never stopped fighting down the stretch, but it was far too little and much too late for Maccabi.