How much better is Maccabi Tel Aviv than the rest of the local competition? The basketball titan was able to concede a 16-0 run to visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv Thursday night during a six-minute stretch and still walk away with a 76-68 victory.
Maccabi fans were hoping to witness a repeat of the 19-point thrashing their team gave Hapoel in the previous derby at Nokia in December. While it started out that way, they looked frustrated by the fourth period that Maccabi was unable to put away the eighth seed in their quarterfinal series opener.
Ricky Hickman finished with a game-leading 23 points, while Yogev Ohayon pulled down 10 boards, many in the late stages of the game when Maccabi was trying to avert a Hapoel rally. Anthony Goods led Hapoel with 20 points.
Maccabi was pretty much in control from the start, building a double-digit lead before the end of the second quarter. Maccabi looked like it was going to run away with the contest by the time it went up 42-20 with just under four minutes to go.
However, Hapoel Tel Aviv refused to go down that easily. Matan Naor popped a three-pointer, his second of the game, to start the rally. Bar Timor then stole the ball from Sean James and fed Brian Randle for the next basket. Jonathan Skjoldebrand capitalized on the next Maccabi turnover to make it 42-27. After a couple of free throws by Timor, Demontez Stitt scored Hapoel’s final two baskets of the half to go into the locker room down by nine.
Naor knocked down another shot from behind the arc to cut Maccabi’s lead to six, but Hickman ended Maccabi’s six-minute drought with a field goal.
Still, the rally energized Hapoel Tel Aviv, which fought back to within five at 54-49 at the 9:34 mark of the fourth quarter.
Naor cut the lead to three at 57-54 a little more than three minutes alter.
The teams went back and forth over the next several minutes, but Hapoel’s team play broke down as Stitt tried to force himself into the paint a couple of possessions in a row. Maccabi’s offense, meanwhile, picked up and Devin Smith’s three-pointer with two minutes left gave Maccabi an insurmountable 10-point lead.