Maccabi Tel Aviv got back to winning ways at fortress Yad Eliahu last night, outlasting Pau Orthez in the third game of the Top 16 of the Euroleague, but it was very much a case of Derrick Sharp to the rescue.
Fortunately for Maccabi head coach Neven Spahija, his team captain is indefatigable. By the 37th minute, Sharp had not scored a single point, but in the final seconds, he rattled in 10 points, including Maccabi's last 8 points, to guide the team to a narrow 74-70 victory.
The win gives Maccabi a fighting chance of finishing the group in second place, thereby ensuring an easier passage to the Final Four. Pau fell to 0-3 and has all but slipped out of contention for a spot in the quarterfinal.
Despite the win, however, it would be fair to say that there is nothing new under Maccabi's sun. The perennial Israeli champion looked bad, the fans booed and the Yellows once again had to overturn a deficit to snatch a barely deserved victory.
At one stage, it looked as if Maccabi were going to lose their second home game in a row. Two weeks ago, it was Vitoria that broke Maccabi's 15-game winning streak at Yad Eliahu and when last night's French opponents took a 12-point lead in the third quarter, it looked like "deja vu all over again." But after Michael Wright made it 57-63 mid-way through the final period, Sharp hit a three to begin a run of 9 unanswered points that put Maccabi on top.
C.C. Harrison looked to get his team back with a minute to go, but a spectacular block from Will Bynum and 6-for-6 free-throw shooting by Sharp iced the win.
Eliyahu led Maccabi with 16 points - all in the first half. Simas Jasaitas added 13, Nikola Vujcic posted 12 points and 11 rebounds and Sharp finished with 11. Britton Johnsen led Pau with 20 - all in the first half. Aaron Miles added 15, Harrison 13 and Ricardo Greer finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.