Maccabi Tel Aviv's defense disappears

Mac TA's 10-game home win streak came to an end Thursday night when they lost 92-86 to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius of Lithuania.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's 10-game home win streak came to an end Thursday night when the yellow-and-blue lost 92-86 to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius of Lithuania in a Euroleague Group B match. Tel Aviv had previously won all its games at Nokia Arena in 2005, but the last game of the calendar year proved to be too much. With Efes Pilsen beating Prokom Trefl Sopot 82-75 Thursday night to improve its Group B-best record to 5-1, Maccabi Tel Aviv (3-3) fell two games out of first place. Maccabi, the Euroleague's highest scoring team, was second best under the baskets all night, with the Lithuanian team far too strong for in the paint and making their hosts pay the price. In a losing effort, Nikola Vujcic was the star for Maccabi once again, with 25 points and grabbing six rebounds. Lietuvos Rytas's Haris Mujezinovic had a career night, scoring 24 points. Maccabi began the game with full court pressure trying to force the visitors into turnovers. The Lithuanians easily dealt with the yellow-and-blue defense opening a small lead midway through the period. Vujcic's presence on both ends made sure the visitors' lead didn't last long. The teams remained neck-and-neck until L. Rytas went on a 12-3 quarter-ending run and finished the first period with a 26-21 lead. Baskets by Derrick Sharp and Anthony Parker at the beginning of the second period brought Maccabi back to within 30-31, but L. Rytas never wavered and remained on top thanks to solid play in the high post by its big men. Maccabi kept close to the Lithuanian team thanks to Vujcic's 13 first half points, but House ensured that L. Rytas held the lead at halftime, 40-44. L. Rytas surged ahead early in the second half and opened a 51-42 lead. After Parker free throws closed the gap to three points, the visitors went on another run and went up by 10 points (60-50). Another Tel Aviv turnover seemed to spell doom for the hosts, but instead it was L. Rytas that suffered when Maccabi went on a run of its own ending the period with a jumper from the corner that tied the score at 61. Maccabi started the fourth quarter with five straight missed baskets and the visitors opened a 75-69 lead. Tel Aviv had one last run left in the tank and closed to within three (84-81), but it wasn't enough. In Group A, former Maccabi guard Yotam Halperin scored a Euroleague career-high 24 points to lead Olimpija Ljubljana to an 87-80 overtime win over Climamio Bologna. Halperin has one more year remaining on his Maccabi contract and is expected to return to the yellow-and-blue next season.