Mac TA gets season started on right foot

Blatt & Co. finding form ahead of this week’s Euroleague opener; Rishon tops Netanya.

MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Doron Perkins (photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Doron Perkins
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Maccabi Tel Aviv can turn its full attention to Thursday’s Euroleague opener at Caja Laboral Vitora after beginning its BSL campaign with an easy 102-75 victory over Hapoel Gilboa/Galil at the Nokia Arena.
Sunday night’s repeat of last season’s BSL final, won by Gilboa, was one-sided from the start, with Maccabi’s far superior roster opening a double-digit lead after less than four minutes and remaining in full control for the remainder of the night.
The two-hour stroll at Nokia allowed coach David Blatt to give 12 of his players a run out ahead of Thursday’s stern test, with seven of Maccabi’s members ending the game in double-figures.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis scored 16 points in 16 minutes, with Lior Eliyahu adding 15, Guy Pnini getting 11 and Tal Burstein, Doron Perkins, Richard Hendrix and David Blu all contributing 10 points for Maccabi, which scored 31 of 43 from two-point range and seven of 19 from beyond the arc.
“I’m happy we got the game off to a strong start and went on to win,” Eliyahu said. “I’m looking forward to returning to Vitoria on Thursday after helping the team to the championship in my last game there last season.”
Vitoria prepared for its game against Maccabi with an NBA tour. Caja lost 108-85 to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday following Thursday’s 110-105 defeat to Memphis.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion got its season off on the right foot, beating Barak Netanya 75-67.
Three more games will be played on Monday, with Hapoel Jerusalem visiting Bnei Hasharon, Maccabi Ashdod welcoming Ironi Ashkelon and Maccabi Haifa going to Hapoel Holon.
At Nokia, Pnini scored the first points of the night from beyond the arc and despite some careless play, it wasn’t long before Maccabi moved into a commanding position.
Gilboa began to find its range later in the period, but Lior Lubin’s men still trailed by 10 points after 10 minutes (24-14) after Burstein’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Gilboa never looked like a team capable of mounting a comeback and Blatt had a full 20 minutes to test and rest his players ahead of Thursday’s Euroleague opener in Spain.
In Rishon, the hosts led 17-13 after a nervy first period and the game was still tight at the break, with Maccabi holding a six-point gap (42-36).
However, Effi Birenboim’s team would begin the second half with a 9-2 run to open a double-digit margin and was well placed with 10 minutes to play, leading 63-52.
The fourth frame was anything but pretty, but Rishon won’t care one bit after holding on for an important victory.
Denis Clemente led Rishon with 17 points, with Aaron McGhee scoring 14 and taking 13 rebounds and Dwayne Mitchell also adding 14 points.
Adrian Banks and Elton Brown scored 15 points each for Netanya.