Maccabi Tel Aviv suffered its second loss at home in Euroleague action this season, succumbing last night to a barrage of three-pointers from Skipper Bologna en route to a 99-89 defeat.
The loss complicates matters for the perennial Israeli champion, creating a real possibility of a third-place finish in its group. In this scenario, Maccabi would face at least one tough opponent in the second stage of Euroleague play.
Maccabi can still finish in second place if it defeats CSKA in Moscow or if the Russian defeat Bologna in Italy.
In any event, Maccabi's coaching staff should be concerned by the ease with which the well-trained Italian team was able to overcome the home team's potential advantage under the hoop.
Skipper Bologna coach Jasmin Repesa called his first time-out with just 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter. This is a clear indication that the Croatian coach's game plan was working like a charm.
Part of Maccabi's loss could also be attributed to the hot hands of Bologna's sharpshooters, who sank an amazing 60 percent (15 of 25) from three-point territory, well above the team's average of six three-pointers per game.
Maccabi was out-rebounded 23-13 in the first half and did not pull down a single offensive rebound. Repesa later explained that this was all part of his game plan.
Tel Aviv's game plan did not proceed so smoothly. Deon Thomas injured his back during the second half, leaving the team without an appropriate replacement for a lackluster Maceo Baston, who scored only 2 points in 20 minutes.
Anthony Parker's 24 points, including 4 out of 4 from three-point range, were not enough to offset the impressive performances by Bologna's Matjak Smodis (27 points), Milos Vujanic (24 points) and Carlos Delfino (16 points on 70-percent shooting from the field, 5 rebounds and 5 assists).
Bologna led the game from the outset and only three-points from Sarunas Jasekevicius and Parker enabled Tel Aviv to finish the first quarter just one point behind (24-23).
Maccabi's defense looked pretty good early in the second quarter, but the team could not ignite its offensive game and found itself on the short end of a 40-35 tally at halftime.
Bologna raced to an 11-point advantage (54-43) at the 24-minute mark, and extended the lead to 13 points three minutes later. Maccabi then came back to chip away at the lead and finish the third quarter 9 points behind (70-61).
David Bluthenthal brought Maccabi back within five points (71-66) on 31 minutes, but then came a questionable offensive foul called against Parker. Thereafter, A.J. Guyton, who left Hapoel Tel Aviv earlier this month, sank a three-pointer and Smodis added another to stretch Bologna's lead beyond Maccabi's reach.
Maccabi hosts Zalgris Kaunas next week and will have no excuse to falter.
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