Maccabi Tel Aviv breezed past Partizan Belgrade 76-62 last night to clinch its spot in next month's Euroleague Top 16 with two games to spare. The win for Maccabi (7-1 ) marked its seventh consecutive Euroleague victory this season, the team's longest streak on the continent since its 2004 championship season.
Partizan (4-4 ) will have to fight it out with group rivals Asseco Prokom from Poland and Lithuania's Zalgiris Kauna to advance.
Maccabi's smothering defense held Partizan to just 24 points in the first half yesterday, during which Belgrade turned the ball over eight times, seven of which were by steals.
While Partizan struggled to get open looks, Maccabi was able to convert rebounds into fast-break points.
On the other end of the court, Maccabi made better use of its offensive rebounds. Though Partizan had more boards under its own basket, 15-9, Maccabi enjoyed more second-chance points.
Lior Eliyahu led Maccabi Tel Aviv in scoring with 16 points.
Eliyahu tallied six of his team's first 11 points, while Chuck Eidson, Euroleague's Player of the Month for November, added the other five as the hosts jumped out to a quick nine-point lead.
Maccabi started showboating a little prematurely, allowing Partizan to regain its composure, but still led 23-11 after the first quarter.
Eidson, who led the Euroleague in steals with 3.43 per game going in, added another three to his haul. Doron Perkins, third in the league, also nabbed another three steals.
Partizan's James Gist, who scored nine points in the first half and finished with 14, helped his team pull within six points at 23-17 on an eight-point run, but Maccabi closed out the half 19-7 to establish control of the game.
Perkins closed out an 11-3 run, making it 42-22 with an exciting steal and fast-break layup while drawing the foul for a three-point play, looking more like the Perkins of Maccabi's Final Four runs in the mid-2000s.
Eidson's layup late in the third quarter, helped by a key block from Perkins, gave Maccabi a 24-point lead that practically sealed the game.
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