Strong 4th gives Mac win over Charleroi

Tel Aviv struggles against the Belgians before pulling out a 69-59 victory at Nokia Arena.

SOFOKLIS SCHORTSANITIS of Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv consolidated its position atop Euroleague Group C on Thursday night, improving to a 4-1 record with a tougher-than-expected 69-59 victory over Spirou Charleroi at Nokia Arena.
After two strong performances over Real Madrid and Efes Istanbul, Maccabi was far from impressive on Thursday night and entered the fourth quarter down by four points (54-50).
However, Tel Aviv held the Belgians to just five points in the final 10 minutes to clinch its fourth straight Euroleague win, keeping the yellow-and-blue in sole possession of first place in its group at the midway point of the regular season.
Lior Eliyahu led Maccabi with 15 points, with David Blu scoring 12 for Tel Aviv, which won despite shooting only 23 percent (5 of 21) from three-point range and committing 17 turnovers.
Demond Mallet and Chris Hill had 18 and 15 points, respectively, for Charleroi.
While a lightning storm was raging outside the arena, Maccabi was looking to get off to a thunderous start against the Belgians, but Mallet was keeping the visitors in the game almost single-handedly, scoring seven of his team’s first nine points.
However, despite not using the ill Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Devin Smith until late in the first half, Maccabi surged ahead with an 11-0 run that included two three-pointers from Blu, who was doubtful for the game after spending much of the day in the hospital with his pregnant wife.
Everything seemed to be in place for Maccabi to put the game to rest by the break, but Charleroi mounted a surprising fight back in the second quarter, erasing Tel Aviv’s 11-point first-period lead (22-11) and moving in front midway through the frame.
Hill suddenly caught fire, with eight quick points cutting the gap to just one before Christophe Beghin gave Charleroi the lead (27-26).
Tel Aviv immediately regained the advantage with five straight points, but Hill’s basket at the buzzer sent the teams into the dressing rooms tied at 35-35.
Jordan Farmar’s first points of the night gave Tel Aviv a 42-37 advantage, but Charleroi kept the hosts at bay with strong interior defense while Maccabi was missing numerous open shots from distance.
The Belgians ended the third quarter with a 9-0 run, with Hill’s three at the buzzer giving Charleroi a 54-50 gap with 10 minutes to play.
However, it would take the Belgians more than five minutes to put another point on the board, with Maccabi beginning the final quarter on a 10-0 run.
Tel Aviv was still missing far too many easy shots, but its dominance on the defensive end allowed it to pull ahead nevertheless, with Smith’s dunk with five minutes remaining opening a 60-54 margin Maccabi just about held on to for a nervy win.