Yellow-and-blue outplayed in best-of-five opener 76-70; Game 2 Thursday.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv will enter Game 2 of the best-of-five Euroleague quarterfinal playoff series against Caja Laboral Vitoria on Thursday with a mustwin mentality, after falling to a 76-70 defeat in Game 1 in Spain on Tuesday night.Vitoria outscored Tel Aviv 26-14 in the first quarter and maintained the lead until the end of the game, although Maccabi will look to draw some encouragement from remaining in touch with the hosts throughout the contest ahead of Game 2.Tel Aviv hosts Games 3 and 4 at Nokia Arena next week, but with a decisive Game 5 – if needed – to be played in Vitoria, the yellow-andblue knows that its chances to advance to the Final Four will be extremely slim should it drop to another defeat on Thursday.Richard Hendrix played his best game for Maccabi this season on Tuesday, scoring 16 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking four shots.Lior Eliyahu added 12 points for Tel Aviv, which shot just 17.6 percent (3 of 17) from three-point range.Stanko Barac had 17 points for Vitoria, with David Logan adding 14 points for the hosts, who shot 13 of 26 from beyond the arc.Maccabi began the game well, taking an early lead after a threepoint play by Eliyahu. However, the hosts soon seized control and punished Tel Aviv’s poor perimeter defense time and again.A Fernando San Emeterio threepointer opened a five-point margin (14-9) and Maccabi was in serious trouble once Logan found his range, with the American scoring eight points in the closing stages of the first period, including two triples, to give Vitoria a 26-14 lead after 10 minutes.Logan remained on fire at the start of the second quarter, hitting a three to start the period to open a record 15-point gap.An Eliyahu basket brought Tel Aviv within single-digits (35-26), but Caja maintained complete control until the break, with San Emeterio’s basket to end the first half giving the hosts a 14-point cushion (46-32) at halftime.Tel Aviv seemed to have no answers for Vitoria, but David Blatt’s men came flying out of the gates at the start of the second half and quickly reduced the deficit.A Richard Hendrix dunk capped a 10-1 Maccabi run to start the third quarter, cutting Vitoria’s margin to five points (47-42), but the yellowand- blue could still not stop the Spaniards from the beyond the arc and San Emeterio’s three reestablished a double-digit gap (58-48).Nevertheless, Maccabi never lost hope, and after Jeremy Pargo scored the team’s first triple of the night following 10 misses, Tel Aviv trailed by just six points (61-55) with one quarter remaining.An Eidson basket to begin the final frame cut the gap to just four points and with three-and-a-half minutes to play Maccabi was in contention, trailing 69-64 following Hendrix’s two points.However, Caja would score the next seven points, with Marcelinho Huertas’s triple with 1:54 to go completing the 7-0 run that would give Vitoria an unassailable 12-point gap (76-64) on the way to a 1-0 lead in the series.
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