Maccabi squashes Vitoria to reach Final 4

Thrilling 3rd quarter run sparks TA to 99-77 win; next up: Real Madrid or Valencia.

Jeremy Pargo 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Jeremy Pargo 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After two seasons, Maccabi Tel Aviv is back in the Euroleague Final Four.
Maccabi thrashed Caja Laboral Vitoria 99-77 at Nokia Arena on Thursday night, completing a 3-1 series victory in impressive fashion.
Tel Aviv needed a dramatic Jeremy Pargo jumper to snatch a victory in Game 2 in Spain, but dominated the Spaniards in Games 3 and 4 at Nokia, crushing Vitoria 81-60 on Tuesday before booking its place in European basketball’s showcase event with another outstanding display on Thursday.
There was hardly anything to separate the teams throughout the first half, with Vitoria taking a slender 52- 51 lead into the interval. However, Maccabi would outscore Caja 28-10 in the third quarter, and despite having lost Doron Perkins to injury for the rest of the season on Tuesday, cruised through the final 10 minutes on its way to its eighth Final Four in 12 seasons.
Maccabi’s opponent in the Final Four semifinal – to be played in Barcelona on Friday, May 6 – will be the winner of the series between Real Madrid and Valencia, which will be decided in a Game 5 next Thursday. Valencia won Game 4 81-72 at home on Thursday.
In Tel Aviv, Jeremy Pargo was sensational for Maccabi once more, scoring 26 points, including four three-pointers, while also dishing out seven assists.
Guy Pnini, who started the game in place of Perkins, added 22 points, with David Blu scoring 17 and Lior Eliyahu contributing 12 for Maccabi, which hit 14 of 21 three-point attempts.
Mirza Teletovic had 17 points for Vitoria, with Brad Oleson scoring 13.
A Doron Perkins video message recorded from his hospital bed was displayed on the arena screens ahead of the tip-off, and Maccabi looked to be in inspired form at the start of the game despite missing one of its biggest stars.
Pnini gave Tel Aviv an early 4-0 lead with his first points of the night and Maccabi opened a six-point gap (10-4) after a Lior Eliyahu basket.
However, that would be as big a margin either team would hold in an extremely tight first half.
A Teletovic three-pointer tied the score at 11-11 midway through the first period, and the teams traded baskets in the remainder of the quarter.
Pargo and Teletovic continued their excellent series, and a three by Maccabi’s Chicago-born guard ensured the hosts had the edge (25-23) after 10 minutes.
Tel Aviv and Caja combined for an outstanding 18 of 25 from the field in the first quarter and would continue their sharp-shooting clinic in the second frame as well.
Four straight Teletovic points gave Vitoria the lead (29-27), but Pargo immediately tied the score with his 14th point of the night, still without missing a shot.
But Maccabi was struggling to keep pace with Vitoria’s extraordinary proficiency, and David Blatt was forced to call a timeout after Marcelinho Huertas’s two points gave the visitors a fivepoint cushion (36-31).
Blu hit a triple in Maccabi’s first possession after the time out, but Brad Oleson’s three meant Caja still held the advantage (43-37).
Just when it started to look as if Vitoria would surge ahead, Pnini caught fire from beyond the arc and didn’t allow the Spaniards to extend their margin.
Pnini hit three triples in two-and-ahalf minutes, giving Maccabi a 49-46 lead with his 16th point of the game inside the final minute of the first half.
However, Teletovic would cap a perfect 20 minutes of scoring with a desperate three to beat the buzzer, taking him to 15 points and giving Vitoria a 52-51 advantage at the break.
Esteban Batista scored the first points of the second half for Caja, but Maccabi would respond with a 21-2 run that would give it the victory.
Tel Aviv’s offense continued to fire on all cylinders and its defense finally managed to slow down Vitoria.
After hardly missing a shot in the first half, Vitoria couldn’t find the basket at the start of the third quarter, scoring just two points in more than seven minutes at one stage.
At the other end, Maccabi was getting points from nearly its entire roster, but especially from Pargo and Blu.

Another three by Pnini with 4:39 to play in the third frame opened Tel Aviv’s first double-digit lead of the contest (67-56) and five straight points by Pargo followed by a Blu three opened a 75-58 gap.
Maccabi was still ahead by 17 points (79-62) with 10 minutes to play and Pargo quickly ended any hopes Caja may have had of making a fourth-quarter comeback.
The superb guard began the period with five unanswered points and ensured that after two years, Maccabi would be returning to the Euroleague Final Four.