Maccabi TA bombard Belgrade for first win

Yellow-and-blue hits 15 threes to crush Serbians to get Euroleague campaign under way.

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Sofoklis Schortsanitis 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Sofoklis Schortsanitis 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv got its Euroleague campaign up and running on Thursday night, beating Red Star Belgrade 96-82 at Nokia Arena to bounce back from last week’s loss in Spain.
The yellow-and-blue suffered a painful 84-80 setback in its continental opener at Laboral Vitoria last week and was desperate to finally show what it is capable of on Thursday.
Maccabi fans were given a taste of what they can expect this season, with Tel Aviv hitting 15 three-pointers from 28 attempts and steamrolling Belgrade at certain stages with high-octane basketball.
However, Maccabi also struggled for consistency for much of the night, and it remains to be seen if the yellow-and-blue will be able to triumph against quality opponents when its shots from beyond the arc don’t fall so reliably.
An initial answer to that question will be given next week when Maccabi visits Lokomotiv Kuban in a tough road encounter in Russia.
Devin Smith led seven Maccabi players in double figures on Thursday night, scoring 17 points, with Joe Ingles contributing 16. Shawn James and Sofoklis Schortsanitis added 13 points each, while David Blu had 11 points and Ricky Hickman and Yogev Ohayon netted 10 points each.
Boban Marjanovic had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Belgrade, which dropped to 0-2 in Group D.
Maccabi’s offensive play was disjointed at the start of the encounter, but its hard work on the defensive end ensured Belgrade had no real chance to cause any significant damage.
Ohayon and Ingles carried Maccabi’s offense early on, but the arena only truly erupted following Blu’s three-pointer with 1:26 minutes to play in the first period (21-12).
Maccabi took a seven-point lead (21-14) into the second quarter and another Blu triple was a hammer’s blow to Red Star’s ambition of recording an upset in Tel Aviv (24-16).
Maccabi coach David Blatt played for much of the second period with four deadly shooters on court, with Sofo being joined by Blu, Smith, Ingles and Sylven Landesberg.
An Ingles three extended the gap to double digits (30-20) for the first time and another long-range effort by Smith took the margin to 33-22.
However, a 10-2 run, capped by a Charles Jenkins dunk, brought the visitors back within three points (35-32) in the final two minutes of the first half to revive Red Star’s hopes.
But the Serbians undid all their hard work with sloppy play in the final 1:38 of the half, with Maccabi going on an 8-0 run, completed by a Hickman layup, to give the yellow-and-blue a comfy cushion at the break (43-32).
Despite the double-figure gap, Blatt was clearly unhappy with his side’s play in the first 20 minutes and the effects of his halftime talk were well evident at the start of the second half.
Tel Aviv required just three-and-half minutes to all but wrap up the win, with a James basket increasing the margin to 19 points (55-36) and securing Maccabi a much-needed confidence boost.