Maccabi Tel Aviv feels the pain in Spain

After a tightly-played first half, Barcelona runs away with a 20-point, 85-65 victory.

maccabi tel aviv yaniv green 248 88 ap (photo credit: )
maccabi tel aviv yaniv green 248 88 ap
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Tel Aviv was handed a painful reminder on Thursday night of how much it still has to improve if it's to compete with European basketball's top teams. Tel Aviv was thrashed 85-65 by Barcelona at the Palau Blaugrana, falling to 1-1 in Group F of the Euroleague Top 16. In its previous six Euroleague games, Maccabi averaged 87 points per game, but Pini Gershon's team desperately struggled against Barcelona's suffocating defense and was second best throughout Thursday's encounter. Tel Aviv failed to score more than 18 points in any of the four quarters and allowed the hosts to nail some 15 three-pointers. Next week, Maccabi visits Real Madrid in a game which will have a significant bearing on which of the teams finishes among the top two in the group to advance to the quarterfinals. D'or Fischer was his usual superb self, scoring 17 points and taking 11 rebounds, but Lior Eliyahu suffered against the Barca defense, contributing just eight points. Omri Casspi was Maccabi's only other player in double-figures, scoring 11 points, with Carlos Arroyo and Marcus Brown combining for just 15, hitting only six of 18 field goals. David Andersen led five Barcelona players in double-figures, scoring 17 points, with Gianluca Basile and Juan Carlos Navarro adding 16 and 12, respectively. The game had to be stopped for a couple of minute during the first period after a protester waving a Palestinian flag raced onto the court. The local police immediately pulled him away and also stopped several others who tried to reach the arena floor. Fischer scored the first basket of the night, but Navarro answered back with five straight points to put Barca on the front foot. Maccabi, however, never lost touch with the Catalans in the first period, and a Casspi jumper tied the score at 8-8. The hosts immediately regained the lead, but Tel Aviv was still well placed after 10 minutes, trailing by just four points (20-16). In the second quarter, Maccabi began to struggle against Barcelona's deep frontcourt and the Spaniards didn't take long to open a double-digit lead. A three-pointer by Basile, who scored 34 points against Maccabi in the second game of last season's quarterfinals series, opened a 25-18 lead and six straight points by Andersen soon after extended the margin to 12 points (33-21). A Roger Grimau three with just over three minutes to play in the first half maintained the hosts gap (39-27), but Tel Aviv held Barca scoreless in the final three minutes of the half and ended up entering the break down by only six points (39-33). Fischer's basket to start the second half cut the gap to just four points, however, Maccabi missed two opportunities to close the margin further and Barcelona would make the visitors pay. Basile was lethal from beyond the arc, giving his team a 49-39 lead with a three and increasing the gap to 15 points (55-40) with another triple with three minutes to go in the third. Tel Aviv had no answer to Barca's long range shots and had no chance of closing the lead as it couldn't find the basket against a superb defense. An Andersen three gave the hosts a 61-47 advantage with 10 minutes remaining and a Navarro basket three minutes into the fourth frame opened a 69-49 margin, effectively clinching Barca's victory.