Local Hoops: Maccabi brought down to earth in Malaga

Tel Aviv will look to rebound from the defeat on Sunday when it hosts Maccabi Haifa in the BSL.

Pini Gershon in action 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Pini Gershon in action 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Israel in a despondent mood on Friday after being brought down to earth in painful fashion by Unicaja Malaga on Thursday night. Maccabi will look to rebound from the defeat on Sunday when it hosts Maccabi Haifa in the BSL. In Spain, Tel Aviv was hoping to build on its impressive victory over Olympiacos, but was helpless against a strong Malaga defense and crashed to a 92-69 defeat, its worst loss of the Euroleague season. "Malaga got off to a strong start and we managed to erase the deficit a bit, but then we missed easy shots and we couldn't match Unicaja's rhythm," said Maccabi coach Pini Gershon, who saw his team fall to an early 21-4 deficit, failing to score a field-goal in the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the encounter. "There are no excuses for this loss." Maccabi's defeat means the team finished Group A in third position and will be drawn with one of the first-placed, second-placed and fourth-placed teams from the three other regular season groups in Monday's Top 16 draw . The Top 16 round will be played between January 28 and March 12, with the two top teams of each group advancing to the Euroleague Playoffs best-of-five quarterfinal series. Marcus Brown and Omri Casspi each scored 13 points for Tel Aviv, with Tre Simmons and Lior Eliyahu adding 10 points in Malaga. "I don't know how to explain what happened to us at the beginning of the game," Eliyahu said. "The first period decided the game. We had a very tough time getting back in the game after that, even though we had several minutes of positive momentum. We didn't play to our true ability tonight." Boniface Ndong led five Malaga players in double-figures, scoring 15 points. "We managed to get a big early lead with great shot selection," Malaga coach Aito Reneses said. "The team played a very good game overall, we were better than a good team like Maccabi, so we have to be satisfied with that." Maccabi Haifa is currently tied with Maccabi in second position with a 7-2 record, but the team has yet to show it can handle the league's top sides. Despite winning four straight league games, Haifa has failed to defeat any of the top four teams to date, with its two losses so far coming against top-of-the-table Hapoel Jerusalem and fourth-placed Hapoel Galil Elyon/Gilboa. On Saturday, Maccabi Givat Shmuel surprised Galil, winning 68-65 at Or Yehuda. Cory Carr led the winners scoring 16 points, with Brian Roberts leading Galil with 16 points as well. On Sunday, Bnei Hasharon hosts Ironi Ramat Gan, Ironi Ashkelon visits Hapoel Holon and Ironi Nahariya goes to Maccabi Rishon Lezion. On Monday, Hapoel Jerusalem visits rock-bottom Elitzur Kiryat Ata.