Mac machine still running at full speed

Huge first quarter stakes Tel Aviv to easy 104-67 home win over Olimpija.

Maccabi Tel Aviv dunk 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv dunk 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv cruised to yet another Euroleague victory at Nokia Arena on Thursday night, beating Olimpija Ljubljana 104-67 to take an important step towards clinching a place in the quarterfinal playoffs.
For the fifth time in seven continental home games this season, Maccabi established a double-digit margin by the end of the first period (28-10) and maintained a comfortable lead for the remainder of the game, easily improving its record at Nokia to 7-0.
Thursday’s thrashing took Tel Aviv’s average margin of victory at home to an emphatic 23.4 points per game, but if Maccabi has any intention of giving Barcelona a fight for first place in Group F, it will have to get the job done on the road in Ljubljana in two weeks.
Olimpija’s only loss at home so far this season was a 64-63 defeat to Barca last week, and the Slovenians, who until Thursday had not lost a Euroleague game by more than 10 points this season, will surely put up a tougher fight.
Jeremy Pargo led Maccabi with 21 points, six assists and five rebounds, with Lior Eliyahu adding 20 points and six rebounds, shooting a perfect 10 of 10 from the field.
Tal Burstein and Sofoklis Schortsanitis contributed 10 points each for Maccabi, which hit a superb 72 percent of its shots from two-point range (34 of 47).
“We didn’t think we would be able to open such a substantial lead by the break, but we began the game well and we did our job,” Eliyahu said. “We now face a tough game in Ljubljana and we hope we can get the win to secure our place in the quarterfinals.”
Giorgi Shermadini scored 15 points for Ljubljana, which will lose all hope of advancing if it doesn’t beat Tel Aviv on February 17.
Maccabi’s defense was working at the start of the game, but the hosts struggled on the offensive end, with the teams combining for six points in the first three minutes of the encounter.
Tel Aviv found the answer to its scoring woes through Eliyahu, who netted eight points in a 10-2 Maccabi run to open a 13-5 lead.
A Chuck Eidson steal and dunk took the margin to double figures and it wasn’t long before the hosts built an unassailable advantage.
The yellow-and-blue ended the first period with a 13-2 surge, with Pargo, Doron Perkins and David Blu all getting in the act.
Blu’s three-pointer gave Tel Aviv a 28- 10 gap after just 10 minutes, and the lead would only continue to grow in the second quarter.
The hosts scored the first nine points of the period, extending their cushion to 27 points (37-10), and despite a Ljubljana 10-0 run midway through the quarter, Maccabi had the win all but wrapped up at the break, leading 49-26.
Tel Aviv kept its foot on the gas in the second half and the game was as good as over after Pargo’s three opened a 32- point margin (64-32) from which Ljubljana was never going to return.