Basketball / EuroLeague / Siena Burned as Maccabi Keeps Euro Hopes Alive

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Maccabi Tel Aviv kept its slender hopes of reaching the quarterfinals of this season’s Euroleague alive, thanks to a convincing 92-61 victory over table-topping Siena at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv last night.

Having scraped through the preliminary round of the competition, Maccabi desperately needed to improve its 2-5 record in the Top 16 or face early elimination from the competition. Maccabi sprinted to a 5-0 lead after 1:30 minutes, but the Italians soon got on the scoreboard and were quickly back in contention. A David Logan three-pointer restored Maccabi’s five-point advantage (13-8) with 3:46 left on the clock, but a tight first quarter ended with the teams tied at 22-22.

The second quarter was to prove decisive, however, as Maccabi outscored the visiting team by 24-12 to take what proved to be an unassailable lead into the second half. A solid third quarter for Maccabi saw the Israeli champion take a 69-53 lead into the final quarter and, with 10,500 raucous fans cheering them on, the home players coasted to a vital victory.

Devin Smith and Yogev Ohayon shared top-scorer honors for Maccabi with 19 points apiece.

After the game, Maccabi coach David Blatt described the victory as, “More than just another win.” He went on, however, to ask the question that has been on everybody’s lips this season: “Why didn’t put on that kind of performance in our previous game?”

“Beating any team by 30 points is fantastic,” Blatt added, “but to do so against a team that was top of the group is amazing. It was a great performance; it reminded me of some of Maccabi’s greatest days.”

With six games left to play in the Top 16 stage of the tournament, Maccabi is in fifth place in the eight-team group. The top four teams progress to the next stage of the competition.

Pnini in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague game against Siena: On eggshells. Credit: Nir Keidar