Maccabi Tel Aviv gets back on track

Israeli team beats Lottomatica Roma 78-65 in Euroleague Matchday 3 game.

mac ta 88 (photo credit: AP)
mac ta 88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv recorded an impressive 78-65 victory over Lottomatica Roma in their Euroleague Matchday 3 game at Nokia Arena Thursday night. The hosts struggled on offense in the first period, but as soon as they figured out the Italian team's defense, a win seemed inevitable. Maccabi also had its best defensive game of the young season, limiting Roma to 65 points after conceding over 100 in each of its two previous Euroleague games. Will Bynum led Maccabi with 19 points, but the game's MVP was the ever-improving Lior Eliyahu, who scored 18 points took five rebounds and was also impressive on the defensive end. "No game in the Euroleague is easy and despite the margin of victory, it was not easy tonight," Eliyahu said after the game. "So far, I've adapted well to Maccabi, but the most important thing is that we continue to win." Rodney Buford finally showed why he was chosen by coach Neven Spahija, scoring 14 points after coming off the bench. Derrick Sharp was reliable, as he usually is, scoring 13 points with the majority of them coming when his team needed them most. Dejan Bodiroga had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists in what might have been the European basketball legend's last appearance in Tel Aviv. Vlado Ilievski scored 16 points with Ognjen Askrabic adding 11 points and six rebounds. Both teams struggled on offense at the start of the game, but six straight points by Eliyahu gave Maccabi a 10-6 lead midway through the quarter. Bynum's contribution was cut to a minimum by Hawkin's strong defense and Tel Aviv found points extremely hard to come by. With three and a half minutes left in the period, Bodiroga got his first points of the game, scoring from beyond the arc to tie the score at 12. The Italian team continued to dictate the style and tempo of play and five points in a row by Vlado Ilievski put his team five points ahead (19-14). Vujcic got the last basket of the quarter to cut the margin to three, but the period's low score was exactly what the visitors hoped for. After the first two minutes of the second quarter, Maccabi finally found the way to beat the Roma defense. A three-pointer by Buford tied the score (25-25), and Tel Aviv gained momentum as the game progressed. Nine more unanswered points, six by Eliyahu and a three by Bynum, gave the hosts their biggest lead of the game (34-25) up until that point. Roma slightly cut into the lead at the end of the first half and went into the break with a six-point deficit (36-30), but the visitors knew that they would have to improve on their 11-point second quarter if they had any intention on winning the game. The second half began with a Bynum three and a second basket by the young American from beyond the arc three minutes into the third period capped a Maccabi 9-0 run and gave the team a commanding 45-30 lead. Roma had no answer to Tel Aviv's offense and just after the midway point of the quarter, Maccabi led by 19 (53-34) following a Buford three-pointer. The visitors were still not down and out and a Bodiroga three capped an 8-0 run that cut the deficit to 11 points. Roma seemed to be edging its way back into the game, but a Derrick Sharp steal from Bodiroga under the visitors' basket ended in two points for Maccabi and the hosts were once more in the driver's seat as the quarter ended 58-46. Two points by Eliyahu at the start of the fourth period extended Maccabi's advantage to 18 points (64-46) and the hosts seemed to be strolling to victory. Roma managed to get within eight points (67-59) after a 13-3 run. However, that would be as close as the Italian squad would get. A alley-oop by Eliyahu with less than three minutes to go gave the hosts a 13-point lead from which there would be no return.