Yellow-and-blue remains unbeaten in Top 16

Maccabi TA toughs out victory with strong second half, despite being on back foot for much of the night.

Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Tyrese Rice. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Tyrese Rice.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)

Maccabi Tel Aviv extended its perfect start to the Euroleague Top 16 on Thursday night, improving to 3-0 with an 87-78 victory at Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania.

Maccabi trailed throughout the first half and found itself down by as many as nine points in the third quarter.
However, it fought back to tie the score by the start of the fourth frame and scored 19 points in the final 5:13 minutes of the game to clinch its 13th straight victory over all competitions, as well as its seventh consecutive Euroleague triumph and 11th win from its past 12 continental contests.
After scoring 85 points just once in its 10 regular season games, Maccabi reached the mark for a third straight contest on Thursday.
“It is great that we have already recorded our second road win in the Top 16, but there is still plenty of basketball to be played in this stage,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “In order to reach the next stage we will have to continue and improve.”
Tyrese Rice scored a season- best 20 points for Maccabi, with Devin Smith adding 15 points and eight rebounds.
Yogev Ohayon finished with 10 points and 11 assists, with bigmen Shawn James and Alex Tyus also netting 10 points each in the absence of the injured Sofoklis Schortsanitis.
Justin Dentmon and Paulius Jankunas had 21 points each for Kaunas.
An 11-3 run handed the hosts an early nine-point cushion (20-11) and Maccabi still trailed Kaunas by six points (25-19) after 10 minutes.
Tel Aviv scored the first five points of the second quarter, with a David Blu triple bringing the visitors within one point (25-24). However, the yellow-and-blue netted just four points in the final three minutes of the first half to fall eight points behind Zalgiris (46-38) at the break.
A Jankunas triple took the Zalgiris gap to a game-high nine points (53-44), but Maccabi finally tightened its defense in the third period and a 14-4 run in three-anda- half minutes, capped by a Tyus basket, gave the visitors their first lead of the encounter (58-57).
A turnaround jumper by Smith ensured there would be nothing to separate the teams ahead of the final 10 minutes (63-63) and a tense final frame would ensue.
The teams would trade baskets before a three-point play by Rice followed by an Ohayon triple opened a decisive five-point margin (76-71) with 4:10 minutes to play.
A Smith basket from beyond the arc with 2:05 remaining extended the gap to six points (81-75) and nothing was going to deny Maccabi the victory after Ohayon stole the ball from Ksistof Lavrinovic with 48 seconds on the clock and Tel Aviv ahead by four points (82-78).