Devin Smith and Nik Caner-Medley had big steals in the final minute as Maccabi Tel Aviv outhustled visiting Khimki Moscow in the final two minutes to pull out an 80-79 victory last night at Nokia Arena. The win keeps Maccabi's playoff hopes alive, although a win by Group F rivals Vitoria Olympiacos didn't help.
Maccabi, Khimki and Olympiacos now own identical 6-5 records.
Maccabi Tel Aviv played an intense game last night in a must-win game to stay alive in the Euroleague playoff picture. While Khimki came into the contest 6-4, with one victory more than Maccabi, it needed the win to avoid giving up valuable ground.
Khimki had destroyed Maccabi 88-67 in the team's first meeting in Moscow, but Maccabi, riding a three-game winning streak in Europe and playing at home, was far from the overmatched side that visited Russia in mid-January.
An early 12-6 run gave Khimki a 16-10 lead midway through the first quarter, but Maccabi fought back to pull within a point by the end of the period.
The game remained tight for most of the second quarter, with Khimki holding onto a razor-thin lead. However, the Russian squad got the better of Maccabi toward the end of the quarter and went into halftime with a four-point lead at 40-36.
However, Maccabi returned to the floor looking more focused. Smith opened the scoring with a field goal and Yogev Ohayon followed with a three-pointer to finally put Maccabi ahead. Maccabi pushed its advantage to as much as 60-48 on a three-pointer by David Logan at the 1:44 mark before Khimki pulled itself together and ran off the final eight points of the period.
Khimki turned the tables early in the final quarter, using a 7-2 run to retake the lead at 63-62. From that point on, the game went back and forth, with six lead changes over the next several minutes.
Khimki took its final edge at 73-72 with 2:49 remaining. Ricky Hickman was fouled while taking a three-pointer on Maccabi's next possession but only converted one free throw. He need not have worried.
David Logan scored 30 seconds later, and with the clock at under a minute Smith made the biggest steal of the game. Hickman then broke through Khimki's defense for an emphatic dunk and a 77-73 lead.
After Caner-Medley intercepted a pass in the paint, Hickman drew two consecutive fouls and made three free throws to finish the game with a team-leading 30 points.
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