Yellow-and-blue denied trip to Final Four

Despite late rally from Mac TA, Pana prevails by one in decisive Game 5 at home.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Keith Langford  (photo credit: Reuters)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Keith Langford
(photo credit: Reuters)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Final Four dream ended in disappointment on Thursday night, with the yellow-and-blue falling to a painful 86-85 defeat to Panathinaikos in the fifth and decisive game of the Euroleague quarterfinal series in Athens.
There was very little to separate the teams until midway through the second period when Pao opened a significant eight-point margin with a 10-2 run, leading 41-32 at the break.
Maccabi came back to tie the score (46-46) with a 12-0 surge in the third period, but the visitors couldn’t keep it up and the Greeks pulled ahead once more, opening a double-digit margin.
Panathinaikos maintained a seemingly comfortable cushion for much of the fourth quarter, but the hosts froze in the final minutes and Maccabi tied the score at 85-85 with 9.8 seconds to play following Guy Pnini free throws.
However, Dimitris Diamantidis hit one of two shots from the line at the other end and Tel Aviv couldn't get off a shot in time and dropped to a heart-wrenching loss.
David Blu scored 14 points for Maccabi, which despite an impressive series against the defending European champion missed out on the Final Four for the third time in four years.
Keith Langford added 11 points, with Yogev Ohayon and Tal Burstein contributing 10 points each.
Reigning Euroleague MVP Diamantidis had 25 points for Pao. 
Maccabi's bench players surprisingly raised to the occasion in the first half, with Burstein's three-pointer with 25 seconds to play in the first period giving Tel Aviv a 20-18 lead after 10 minutes.
With both Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Richard Hendrix getting into early foul trouble, Shawn James was thrown into the fray and the Euroleague rookie made a real difference on the defensive end. 
A Devin Smith free throw with 6:20 to play in the half kept the score as tight as can be (24-24), but the wheels would come off the Maccabi wagon in the final six minutes of the second period.
Diamantidis scored twice from the line after a David Blatt technical and a Sarunas Jasikevicius three capped the run, opening a 37-28 margin with three minutes remaining in the half.
The hosts still had a nine-point cushion (41-32) at the interval and a Diamantidis triple early in the third frame took the gap to 12 points (46-34).
However, just when it seemed like the game was running away from Maccabi, the visitors replied with a 12-0 run, with Ohayon scoring two straight threes and Hendrix hitting two shots under the basket, the second of which tied the score at 46-46.
However, Ohayon missed two attempts from the line which could have given Maccabi the lead and Pao went on a Saras inspired 10-0 run and took a nine-point cushion (62-53) into the final period.
Maccabi was well behind for much of the fourth quarter, but tied the score at 85-85 after three Pnini free throws with nine seconds to play, only to drop to a defeat it won't quickly forget.