Yellow-and-blue secures group with ease

Maccabi Tel Aviv cruises past Alba Berlin, now looks ahead to new Top 16 round-robin format.

Mac TA's Ricky Hickman 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Mac TA's Ricky Hickman 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv clinched Euroleague Group B with little trouble on Thursday night, thrashing Alba Berlin 78-62 at Nokia Arena to finish the regular season with an 8-2 record.
A 23-2 run effectively secured Maccabi’s win by the halftime break (48-24), with the yellow- and- blue easily managing without the sick Devin Smith and suspended Guy Pnini.
Ricky Hickman led five Maccabi players in double-figures with 17 points, while David Logan scored 15, Yogev Ohayon added 14 and Sylven Landesberg more than doubled his total in the first nine Euroleague games of the season with 13 points.
Deon Thompson had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Alba.
Berlin put up a fight for much of the first quarter, with a Derrick Byars basket with 2:27 to play in the period bringing the visitors within a single point (14-13).
However, Maccabi would hold Alba to just two points in the next seven-and-a-half minutes, going on a 23-2 run.
Five straight points by Logan opened a double-digit gap (23- 13) by the end of the first frame, with five points by Ohayon capping the surge (37-15) and essentially rendering the entire second half as garbage time, despite some lax minutes.
The yellow-and-blue made the most of a relatively weak regular season group, but matters will be exceedingly more difficult in the Top 16, which has a new format this season.
The teams will be split into two groups of eight, with the best four to progress to the quarterfinal playoffs after a 14-game round-robin, which begins on December 27 and runs until April 5.
Maccabi hopes to bolster its roster ahead of the start of the Top 16, with former forward Richard Hendrix one of the names being mentioned in connection with the club.
Tel Aviv is also set to welcome back Pnini sometime during the Top 16.
Maccabi suspended Pnini until further notice, stripped him of the captaincy and fined him NIS 100,000 after he was caught calling Hapoel Tel Aviv player Jonathan Skjoldebrand a Nazi during last week’s derby.
However, Pnini will be able to return to play in the BSL as soon as January 6 after he agreed to a plea bargain with the Israel Basketball Association on Thursday.
The IBA suspended Pnini for four games, fined him NIS 10,000 and sentenced him to volunteer 40 hours at Yad Vashem or another Holocaust related institution.