Mac TA heading back to Greece for Game 5

Pana pulls off 78-69 conquest at Nokia to set up winner-take-all rubber-match next week.

YOGEV OHAYON 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to win a decisive Game 5 in Athens next week if it is to advance to the Euroleague Final Four after falling 78-69 to Panathinaikos at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
A win would have seen Maccabi progress to its ninth Final Four in the past 13 years, but the yellow-and-blue couldn’t close out the series against the defending champion and now faces an extremely difficult Game 5 in Greece with the series tied at 2-2.
Keith Langford and Devin Smith had 14 points each for Maccabi, with Lior Eliyahu adding 12 points.
Nick Calathes had 15 for Panathinaikos, which will now surely like its chances of reaching the Final Four in Istanbul.
It was a tense affair right from the tip-off, with Pao initially holding a slender margin before Yogev Ohayon’s three-pointer gave Maccabi its first lead of the night (13-12) with 3:20 to play in the first period.
The hosts still had the edge after 10 minutes (19-17), but Tel Aviv showed early signs of fatigue on offense and former Maccabi star Sarunas Jasikevicius hit a three to open a five-point gap (30- 25), Pao’s biggest of the first half.
Tel Aviv had to toil for every point, relying on solo efforts rather than team moves, recording just a single assist in total in the entire first half.
After Tuesday’s sloppy first half, Pao committed just five turnovers in the first 20 minutes and would have held a larger lead at the break (41-36) had it not missed so many free throws (9 of 15).
After scoring 10 in the first half, Calathes added five quick points at the start of the third period, giving Panathinaikos a double-digit margin (49-38) and forcing coach David Blatt to call a timeout with the second half less than two minutes old.
Maccabi looked close to breaking point, but a 9-0 run, capped by an Ohayon tip-in, meant the yellow-and-blue was back within one possession (49-47) midway through the third quarter.
Panathinaikos held a 54-50 lead with 10 minutes to play and Pao coach Zeljko Obradovic began the fourth frame with all his big guns, playing in the back-court with both Saras and Dimitris Diamantidis.
A Jasikevicius jumper took the lead to five and a three by Kostas Kaimakoglou 80 seconds into the period extended the gap to eight (59-51).
But Maccabi was never going to give up without leaving every drop of sweat on the Nokia floor and five straight points by Langford cut the deficit to just two points (60-58) with 6:55 remaining.
After not even playing a single minute in Game 3, Demond Mallet came out of nowhere to hit a three and Eliyahu’s basket moments later gave Maccabi its first lead of the second half (65-64) with 4:17 left in the game.
Tel Aviv still held a one-point gap (67-66) after David Blu’s free throws with 3:20 to go, but it only scored two points in the remainder of the game and now faces a series (and season) decider in Athens next Thursday.