Yellow-and-blue closes in on semifinals

Mac TA claims 81-60 W over Vitoria at Nokia, has chance to close out series.

Pargo 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Pargo 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv moved to within one victory of advancing to the Euroleague Final Four on Tuesday night, thrashing Caja Laboral Vitoria 81-60 at Nokia Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five quarterfinal series.
After a tight first period, Tel Aviv built a double-figure lead (41-30) by halftime and outscored the Spaniards 28-15 in the third quarter to open an unassailable lead.
Maccabi completely outplayed Caja in the second and third quarters, holding the visitors to 22 points, one less than they scored in the first quarter alone.
Tel Aviv may have needed a dramatic Jeremy Pargo winner to steal Game 2 in Spain, but it won with surprising ease on Tuesday night and is now within touching distance of a return to the showcase event of European basketball’s premier competition after two seasons out.
The yellow-and-blue will look to close out the series when it hosts Game 4 on Thursday, but it will have to do so without Doron Perkins, who twisted his knee at the start of the second quarter on Tuesday and could be out for the remainder of the season.
Pargo took the reins in the absence of Perkins, scoring 23 points, including four three-pointers, with David Blu adding 16 points, also hitting four triples.
“This game means nothing at all ahead of Thursday,” Pargo said. “We have a big game coming up and we will have to continue and play well.
We wanted to be ourselves tonight and we got going in the second quarter and opened a significant lead.”
Led by Pargo and Blu, Maccabi hit 11 of 25 three-point attempts on Tuesday, far better than Vitoria, which is the best perimeter shooting team in the competition and shot 50 percent in the first two games of the series, but went just five of 22 on Tuesday.
Mirza Teletovic had 14 points for Vitoria, but the visitors were forced to 15 turnovers by Maccabi and will have to improve the ball handling to have any chance of tying up the series on Thursday and sending the series back to Spain for Game 5.
Pargo picked up where he left off in Game 2, scoring the first two points of the night to put Maccabi in front.
However, both teams looked sharp at the start of the encounter and the lead would exchange hands numerous times in the first period.
A Teletovic three-pointer, taking him to seven points on the night, gave Vitoria the lead midway through the first frame, but after David Blu and Fernando San Emeterio traded triples it was Maccabi which has a slender lead (22-20).
The hosts still held a small margin (24- 23) after 10 minutes, but suffered a significant blow 13 seconds into the second frame when Doron Perkins hit the floor hard and had to taken to the dressing room.
Nevertheless, the quarter would be dominated by Maccabi, which held Caja to just two points in the first seven minutes to open a double-digit margin.
Tel Aviv’s defense was forcing turnovers and even when the visitors managed to get their shots off they seemed to always have a hand in their face.
Two Pargo threes within 23 seconds took him to 15 points for the game and opened a 36-25 lead with five minutes to play in the first half.
Maccabi missed a couple of opportunities to increase its gap even further, but Milan Macvan’s triple to end the half ensured the hosts still held an important cushion (41-30) at the break.
Tel Aviv continued to extend its gap at the start of the second half thanks to a shooting clinic by Blu.
The forward was unstoppable from beyond the arc, hitting three triples in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the quarter to give Maccabi a 52-37 lead.
The fact the Spaniards were playing their fifth game in 10 days began to show in the second half, with Vitoria’s tired legs struggling to keep pace with Tel Aviv’s murderous offensive pace.
A three-point play by Pargo was followed by a Lior Eliyahu dunk and the hosts led 59-38 six minutes into the second half.
Vitoria simply had no answers for Maccabi, and especially Pargo. The sensational playmaker capped the third quarter with another three, his fourth of the game, to open a 24-point margin (69-45) that Tel Aviv would easily hold on to en route to taking a 2-1 lead in the series.