Local Hoops: Maccabi TA returns to the top

After being knocked out of the Euroleague by CSKA Moscow last Thursday, the yellow-and-blue comes out strong in its game against Maccabi Rishon Lezion.

nikola vujcic 298.88 (photo credit: Euroleague photos)
nikola vujcic 298.88
(photo credit: Euroleague photos)
Maccabi Tel Aviv made a strong statement to its domestic challengers by routing Maccabi Rishon Lezion 108-87 in the final game of the BSL second round at Nokia Arena on Monday. After being knocked out of the Euroleague by CSKA Moscow last Thursday, the yellow-and-blue came out strong and Neven Spahija's men were never really troubled by struggling Rishon, which managed to force a respectable scoreline only after an entirely one-sided second half. Tel Aviv returned to the top of the standings heading into the third and final round, which is set to begin Thursday evening. "We won the game in the first half," said Spahija said. "But I'm not completely happy with our second half performance. We lost our concentration in the third quarter and helped Rishon back into the game temporarily. "But it was basically a good practice game. We still have to keep working hard to win the championship." Spahija opted for an ultra-defensive lineup and benched Lior Eliyahu in favor of Jamie Arnold. Tel Aviv surprised with a full-court defensive press, which rendered Rishon's offense helpless and ineffective. Tal Burstein sprained his ankle, but returned after receiving treatment on the bench. The defending champions also put on a brilliant offensive display in the second period. Goran Jeretin made two quick baskets from beyond the arc to increase Tel Aviv's lead to double-digits. Even reserve center Noel Felix came off the bench and produced a mesmerizing alley-oop dunk, as the hosts raced out to a 64-43 halftime lead. Rishon switched to a physical zone defense in the third quarter, which disrupted Tel Aviv's rhythm and also resulted in numerous fouls called on Rishon. However, Tel Aviv held on and played clever percentage basketball on its way to the convincing victory. Eliyahu led Maccabi with a solid all-round performance despite not being in Spahija's starting five. The athletic forward finished with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. Jeretin added 16 important points, while Will Bynum played stout defense and contributed 10 points and six assists on the offensive end. Arnold finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.