Maccabi Tel Aviv stood up to its first big European test last night and beat Spanish club Malaga convincingly 80-62.
Maccabi managed to overcome the Korac Cup holder, a well-drilled team with good defensive ability which is well coached by Bozidar Malikovic.
But an excellent showing by Maccabi in the second half both on defense and on offense proved that David Blatt's charges will again be serious Final Four contenders.
A balanced first quarter that ended with a score of 14-14, as both defenses reacted well, made it appear as if this would be Malaga's night.
In the second quarter, Maccabi conceded 28 points and Malaga led by eight with 1:20 until halftime. Nate Huffman looked a pale imitation of himself as he failed to dominate the boards. He did scoreeight points in 11 minutes, however.
The second half was a completely different story. It was all Maccabi and Huffman. Blatt managed to read every move which Malikovic set up for him, and often preempted his counterpart.
Within five minutes, Malaga's advantage had disappeared as Maccabi leveled at 46-46 and three minutes later Maccabi was up 55-48, with Arriel McDonald doing most of the damage. At that point Huffman moved into high gear, totally dominating under the baskets.
Maccabi closed Malaga down with its tight defense and ran to the hoop at the other end to ensure victory.Huffman, who was chosen as the game's MVP finished with 28 points, 20 of them in the second half, and seven rebounds.
Anthony Parker was the next highest Maccabi scorer with 13 points, while McDonald added 11.
Malaga was led by Mustafa Sonco, who had 15 points.
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