Yellow-and-blue surge by Malaga in opener

Mac TA gets over Euroleague road jinx, overcomes hosts’ fourth-quarter comeback bid.

MACCABI TEL AVIV’S Yogev Ohayon 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
MACCABI TEL AVIV’S Yogev Ohayon 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv got its Euroleague campaign off to a promising start on Thursday night, defeating Unicaja Malaga 85-80 in Spain.
After starting each of its past two Euroleague seasons with road defeats, Maccabi opened a double-digit margin (47-36) after an impressive first half on Thursday and survived a Malaga comeback to clinch the win thanks to a Yogev Ohayon-inspired 10-0 fourth-quarter run.
“I always said that we have a good team and I liked what I saw tonight,” said Maccabi’s delighted coach David Blatt.
“Even though there were moments that we struggled in the third quarter we were ready enough to win a very important and difficult game.”
Ricky Hickman led Maccabi with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, with David Logan and Lior Eliyahu scoring 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Guy Pnini added 11 points for Tel Aviv, which passed 16 assists and won its road opener for the first time since 2004, which was also the last season it lifted the Euroleague title.
Earl Calloway had 25 points for Malaga, which also got 19 points from Krunoslav Simon.
Malaga scored the first five points of the night, but Pnini’s three-pointer tied the score (8-8).
An Eliyahu steal and lay-up gave Maccabi its first lead of the game (19- 17) and Malcolm Thomas’s first points for the yellow-and-blue capped a 10-0 run which opened an eight-point gap (25-17).
The hosts ended the first quarter with another triple to close within five points (25-20), but the second period would belong to Tel Aviv.
New boys Sylven Landesberg, Hickman and Logan all got in on the act, with Maccabi going on an 18-5 run to start the frame to take an 18-point cushion (43-25).
Four straight points by the lively Shawn James completed the surge midway through the quarter, but the win was far from secure at the break after Maccabi scored just four points in the remainder of the half, allowing the Spaniards to close to 47-36.
Maccabi scored two baskets at the start of the second half to increase its margin to 15 points (51-36), but its offensive woes continued after that, failing to hit another field goal in the quarter.
Malaga steadily ate away at the gap, with Calloway’s three capping a 9-0 run, bringing the hosts back within one possession (56-54).
Maccabi would steady the ship with the help of the refs, with Giorgi Shermadini hitting four straight free throws.
However, despite scoring 13 times from the foul line in the period, the momentum was squarely on Malaga’s side entering the final frame, with the hosts trailing by just two points (65-63).
But after a quiet first three periods, Ohayon took charge at the start of the fourth quarter and led Maccabi to the win.
Ohayon scored six straight points before providing an acrobatic assist for a Pnini basket which opened a 12-point advantage (77-65).
Malaga cut the gap to six points (77- 71) with four minutes to play and closed to within three in the final minute, but Maccabi held on for a very encouraging road win.