Real Madrid hands yellow-and-blue maiden Top 16 defeat and first loss in a while; CSKA takes over group lead.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 17-game winning streak over all competitions came to an end on Thursday night with a 74-68 defeat at Real Madrid in Euroleague Top 16 action.Maccabi entered the encounter top of Group F with a 4-0 record, triumphing in its eight previous Euroleague games. The yellowand- blue went toe-to-toe with Real throughout the tight contest, but couldn’t eke out a victory over the team that is regarded by many as the best in Europe, falling to its first defeat since the beginning of December.Real only dropped to its first defeat of the season over all competitions last week, losing to CSKA Moscow in Russia. The Spaniards were eager to put that loss behind them against Maccabi, and while they failed to do so convincingly, they ultimately got the result they were hoping for.Despite the defeat, Maccabi coach David Blatt will draw many positives from Thursday’s performance, especially as the team was playing without center Shawn James, who could miss the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a ruptured disc in his back earlier this week.Guy Pnini and Sofoklis Schortsanitis had 15 points each for Maccabi (4-1). Sergio Llull had 20 points for Madrid (4-1).After a nervy start to the night, Madrid threatened to surge ahead when it opened an early eight-point gap (16-8). But Maccabi ended the first period on a high, with Joe Ingles’s three-pointer giving the yellow- and-blue a 20-19 edge.Real led by as many as seven points (36-29) in the second period, but Maccabi remained within striking distance at the break (39-35).Maccabi opened a seven-point advantage (55-48) in the third quarter, but led by just a single point (57- 56) ahead of the final 10 minutes.The game ultimately came down to the final two minutes, with Madrid eventually clinching the victory thanks to two clutch three-pointers from Llull.
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