Maccabi Tel Aviv edged out Unicaja Malaga 106-101 in an overtime thriller at Yad Eliahu Thursday, but it was a victory that left many questions hanging over Neven Spahija's new-look side.
Will Bynum erupted for 29 points in his Euroleague debut, while Nikola Vujcic hit 14 points, adding 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Jamie Arnold came off the bench for 17 points and 8 rebounds, Simas Jasaitis added 14, Derrick Sharp 13 and rookie Lior Eliyahu 12.
Malaga's Carlos Cabezas led all scorers with 32 points and 7 assists, while Jiri Welsch scored 15 of his 17 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Maccabi got off to a dream start: It blew the visitors away 34-16 in the opening period, with Jasaitis blasting away for 12 points.
Yad Eliahu was on fire, and the pre-season talk of the end of the empire looked to have been too hasty. But Malaga stormed back, starting the second period with a 17-0 run, and the teams went to the interval level at 49-49.
The second half was neck-and-neck, with Bynum taking the game on to his shoulders and setting the crowd alight with his driving runs.
But Bynum failed in managing Tel Aviv's game and Cabezas penalized Maccabi time after time.
The game came down to the wire, as the fourth quarter featured four lead changes and four ties.
Vujcic put Maccabi up 90-88 with half a minute left, but Spahija decided not to foul, and Cabezas forced overtime with 6.1 seconds to go.
Jamie Arnold gave Maccabi the edge in overtime with a massive steal and two baskets from offensive rebounds.
"We won a bad game, but we won," said Maccabi coach Spahija. "That isn't the way I want us to play. I liked the first ten minutes of our game, but after that, I didn't like our defense. We had a great first quarter. I said in the past that we are ready to play maybe 25 minutes at the top level, and that's what happened. I'm sure we can look a lot better; our defense was atrocious."
"We need to be in focus the whole time and not just for 10 or 20 minutes. Then everything will look much better," said Will Bynum. "We are still a new team. It was a great game. We played well, but we all need to focus more on defense and improve it."
In other games Thursday night, former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt got his Euroleague campaign off on the right foot, as his Benetton Treviso team beat Zalgiris Kaunas 95-82 thanks to 26 points from Spencer Nelson, who hit six of seven from the three-point range.
Cibona Zagreb hammered Ljubljana 77-61. Le Mans made a successful Euroleague debut with an 82-71 defeat of Bologna, while Dinamo Moscow downed Cologne 75-68.