Tough in Turkey, but Maccabi survives

Yellow-and-blue nets first Euroleague road win, outlasting Anadolu Efes Istanbul 79-72.

Sofo 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Sofo 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv had to scrape and grind, but it eventually got the road win it so desperately desired on Thursday night, improving to 3-1 in Euroleague Group C with a hard-fought 79-72 victory over Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
After opening its Euroleague campaign with unconvincing performances against Olimpia Milano and Partizan Belgrade, Maccabi finally played to potential in the victory over Real Madrid last week and proved it can win in more ways than one in Turkey on Thursday.
There was little to separate Tel Aviv and Efes throughout the encounter at the Sinan Erdem Arena, but the yellow-and- blue held its composure the better of the two teams in the closing stages to clinch its third straight continental win.
"This was a very tough game, but we won in every quarter and that shows we took care of the small details,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said. “We trained superbly during the week and in the end of the game we had the strength and the ability to clinch the win. We didn’t play great, but we were better than Efes in the crucial stages.”
Jordan Farmar continued his excellent run of form for Maccabi, scoring 18 points, passing six assists and taking five rebounds. David Blu added 15 points, with Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Lior Eliyahu netting 12 points each for Maccabi, which scored 60 percent (24 of 40) from two-point range.
Sasha Vujacic led Efes with 21 points, while Stanko Barac scored 17 for the hosts, which took 17 offensive rebounds but could still not win.
Maccabi couldn’t find its range at the start of the game and Ersan Ilyasova’s basket opened an 8-1 Efes lead.
It took Tel Aviv more than four minutes until it scored its first field goal of the night, but it soon ate away at Istanbul’s lead, with five straight Farmar points bringing the visitors within two points (10-8).
Without the injured Terence Kinsey, its top scorer so far this season, Efes struggled to break down Maccabi’s defense and even when it managed to do so it missed layups no team can afford to miss.
The hosts failed to score in the final 4:24 of the first quarter and a Shawn James dunk to end the period gave Maccabi a 14-13 lead, its first of the night.
However, Tel Aviv couldn’t build on its momentum in the second quarter, which remained tight throughout. In the hope of keeping his team fresh, Blatt used all 12 of his players by the midway point of the period, which Maccabi ended in a 38-35 lead.
A Farmar three-pointer midway through the third frame increased Maccabi’s margin to a record nine points (52-43), but after failing to score from beyond the arc in the first half, Vujacic hit two straight triples to cut the gap to 52-49.
A Devin Smith three gave Tel Aviv a 59-53 lead entering the final frame and Yogev Ohayon’s three-point play at the start of the fourth quarter extended Maccabi’s cushion back to nine points (62-53).
However, the game was far from over, with Barac’s jumper closing the gap to a single point (68-67) with 2:45 remaining.
A Vujacic triple with just under two minutes to play tied the score at 70-70, but just when it seemed the Turks were in the driving seat, they lost their head, and Maccabi scored six straight free-throws to open a lead it would translate into an impressive road win.