Maccabi's high powered attack failed as they lost to Olympiacos Piraeus 83-78 Thursday night in Greece.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Maccabi Tel Aviv's high powered attack failed it for the first time since February as the two-time defending Euroleague champs lost to Olympiacos Piraeus 83-78 Thursday night in Greece.
The writing was on the wall from the start as the Israeli side struggled to produce points and needed clutch play from its reserves just to stay in the picture.
On the other end, former Maccabi player Quincy Lewis never stopped shooting, leading his team with 21 points. Center Sofoklis Schortsanitis came off the bench for 13 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes, drawing seven fouls from Maccabi's big men and creating havoc in the paint.
Tel Aviv was led for the first time by Will Solomon with 19 points and seven boards. Anthony Parker scored 11, but shot 4-of-14 from the field. Jamie Arnold added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The defeat ended an 11-game Euroleague winning streak dating back to the final game of the regular season against Barcelona in February.
Maccabi had hot and cold stretches all game long. Its chances of winning had seemed to vanished when it missed six straight shots to start the fourth quarter as Olympiacos scored eight unanswered points for a 68-61 lead. But coach Pini Gershon's side turned up the defensive pressure, stopped the home side on six trips in a row downcourt and pieced together 13 points to take a comfortable lead. Yaniv Green was key, starting and finishing that run with baskets inside, while Nikola Vujcic and Tal Burstein both added threes. But Maccabi's offense froze from that point on.
Save a Vujcic slam at the two-minute mark off an inbounds play, Tel Aviv went without a basket in the game's final four minutes and allowed Olympiacos a morale-boosting win.
Schortsanitis and point guard Tyus Edney were instrumental at the end. After the Vujcic slam made it 76-73, "Baby Shaq," as the 21-year-old center is affectionately known, scored inside and on the next possession corrected a missed Edney three to put his side up for good.
Then with the pressure on, Edney, a former Euroleague champ himself, swished two sets of free throws - one with 45 seconds remaining and another 11 seconds later - to seal the win.
Maccabi struggled at first, but like last week got a push at the end of the first period to take the lead. In the game's first seven minutes, Tel Aviv missed six of seven shots and committed seven turnovers, falling behind 8-5. Solomon had scored all of the team's points.
When Derrick Sharp, Kirk Penney and Arnold came in, everything changed. Sharp ended the Maccabi drought with a bank shot and followed that with a three. Then Arnold found an open Penney for another trifecta, converted a three-point play of his own and Penney ended a 13-4 run with a layup as the quarter ended.
The yellow and blue maintained a narrow edge until the next scoring drought hit. Maccabi missed eight of nine tries midway through the second period, allowing Olympiacos a 12-2 run, which it parlayed into a 39-36 halftime lead.
Maccabi returns home to take on Cibona Zagreb next week at Nokia Arena.
Also Thursday, Efes Pilsen rode a 23-point, eight-rebound Henry Domercant performance to a 66-63 home win over Winterthur Barcelona to take sole possession of first place in Group B.
In a Group A encounter, David Blatt's Benetton Treviso needed overtime to overcome Strasbourg 78-76 and improve to 2-0.