Second-half surge saves Mac TA

Nikola Vujcic lifts yellow-and-blue to 14th straight home win.

maccabi ta 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
maccabi ta 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
There's no place like home. After suffering two consecutive road defeats Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to the Nokia Arena on Thursday night and recorded its 14th straight home Euroleague victory, defeating Cibona Zagreb 91-83. Maccabi trailed for most of the first three quarters, but grabbed control in the last 10 minutes. Tel Aviv was led as usual by Nikola Vujcic, who scored 29 points, took seven rebounds and passed six assists, but the most important contribution of the evening came from Tal Burstein. The fit-again swingman scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists. "The most important thing is that we continue to win," Burstein said after the game. "There's still a long season ahead of us and we can't give up. I really missed these games." Dependable veteran Derrick Sharp scored 19 points for Tel Aviv, with Lior Eliyahu adding 14 points and six rebounds. Cibona was led by Chris Warren, who scored 23 points and had six rebounds, with Davor Kus adding 19 points and Barisa Krasic scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Maccabi looked stressed and tight at the start of the game and trailed early on. The visitors stormed out to a 10-point lead (29-19) at the end of the first quarter. Things continued to deteriorate for the hosts at the start of the second period, with Krasic's three giving the club a 35-21 lead. A Andrew Wisniewsky layup gave Cibona its biggest lead of the game (37-21) and Tel Aviv looked lost. Midway through the quarter, the hosts began to edge their way back into the game and came within seven points (39-32) thanks to Simas Jasaitis's basket. Three successful free-throws by Sharp with two seconds remaining in the half cut the visitors' lead to seven points (46-39) to put Maccabi within reach once again. A 9-0 run by Zagreb at the start of the second half gave it a 16-point advantage and Tel Aviv was in trouble, but Maccabi responded with a 17-3 run and it wasn't long before the hosts grabbed the lead. Sharp's three-pointer gave his side a 61-59 advantage and Tel Aviv began to dominate the game. Vujcic's buzzer beater at the end of the third tied the score at 66 and the hosts were in an ideal position to push for the win. Tel Aviv took full advantage of its momentum at the start of the final quarter and Burstein's three put the team up by five (71-66). The hosts' lead continued to grow, as Vujcic was nearly unstoppable under the basket. The Croatian center scored six straight for Tel Aviv and after Burstein added two more, the team led 80-69. Cibona closed the gap to six points (80-74), but Sharp was on hand with a three-pointer to ease the pressure on his team and regain Maccabi's comfortable lead. Burstein capped a perfect evening with a basket from beyond the arc that gave Tel Aviv an 11-point lead.