Maccabi Tel Aviv showed why it is the reigning Euroleague champion by downing Winterthur FCB 78-88 on the road in Barcelona, Spain in Group B on Thursday night. Maccabi improved to 4-3 and now ties for the third place in Group B with Cibona. Barcelona dropped to 3-4 and shares fifth place with Olympiacos. Tal Burstein led the winners with 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Anthony Parker added 17 for Maccabi while Nikola Vujcic and Maceo Baston each scored 16. Michalis Kakiouzis led Barcelona with 21 points while Bootsy Thornton and Shammond Williams each had 10 points. Several VIPs attended the game, such as ULEB president Eduardo Portela, Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague-winning coach Svetislav Pesic and NBA legend Larry Bird. Maccabi showed its power in the opening quarter, when Vujcic and Baston combined for 14 points of a 15-27 visitors lead. Burstein scored 11 points in the second quarter as Maccabi kept ahead 38-48 and 5 points in a late 0-7 third-quarter run that made it 55-71, after which the guests never looked back.
Maccabi forced a Barcelona timeout in just 82 seconds as Burstein followed Vujcic's jump hook with a fast break layup, while Baston dunked it to make the hosts stop the game. Shammond Williams picked up his second foul and went to the bench, while Baston took over with a big one-handed dunk and a layup to cap a 0-10 opening run for Maccabi. Barcelona went scoreless for almost 4 minutes, but a three by Basile ignited a 7-0 run which Vujanic capped with a driving basket. Vujcic came to the rescue with a dunk, igniting another 0-7 run highlighted by Parker's corner three which boosted Maccabi's lead to 7-17. Marconato nailed a jumper, but Maccabi now had its momentum going. Vujcic made free throws, Baston had his third dunk and Burstein copied him for a 9-23 margin. Back-to-back layups by Parker and Sharon Shason capped a 4-17 run, but Marc Gasol and Williams combined for 4 free throws to bring Barcelona within 15-27 after 10 minutes.
Maccabi kept rolling early in the second, as Vujcic banked in a short jumper and fed Burstein for a corner three which made it a 17-point game, 15-32. Barcelona had troubles against Maccabi's matchup zone defense until Marconato stepped up with a three-point play and Roger Grimau added a bomb from downtown. Kakiouzis followed a reverse layup with a close basket and Williams dunked it in a 7-2 run which brought Barcelona within 28-39 after 16 minutes. Maccabi called timeout and Parker shined with a driving layup, but the guests had entered the foul bonus and Barcelona made the most of it. Baston and Jordi Trias exchanged dunks, while free throws by Grimau got the hosts as close as 36-43. Vujcic made free throws and again fed Burstein for a big three, but a buzzer-beating basket by Vujanic fixed the score at 38-48 at halftime. The teams combined to make 11 triples in the second quarter.
Vujcic came back strong after the break with a two-handed fast break dunk, but Williams nailed a tough jumper and Kakiouzis nailed a corner three to keep Barcelona into the game, 44-52. Barcelona had improved its defense, but Maccabi stayed loyal to its run-and-gun game. Parker nailed a six-meter jumper while Solomon fed Baston for a layup to give Maccabi a 44-57 margin. Bootsy Thornton made a short jumper and fed Kakiouzis for an easy basket, but Solomon silenced the crowd with an acrobatic jumper and the free throw which came with it. Free throws by Trias and Kakiouzis brought Barcelona within 51-61 after 27 minutes. Burstein slashed for a layup, but Kakiouzis answered from downtown to fire up the crowd. Jaime Arnold made an ellegant turnaround layup and Burstein followed a three-point play with a baseline jumper to keep Maccabi fully in charge, 55-71, after 30 minutes.
Rodrigo De La Fuente tried to get Barcelona back into the game with 5 quick points on a basket-plus-foul and a driving layup. Williams nailed a six-meter jumper to bring the hosts within 62-73, but Parker matched it with a high-flying layup. Solomon fired in a three from the right wing which Parker - who else? - followed with another jumper to put the victory on ice, 62-80, with under 6 minutes to go. Barcelona called timeout, but Vujcic made it a 20-point game with a left-handed layup. The outcome was clear midway through the final period, as Barcelona only managed to exchange baskets for the next couple of minutes. Meanwhile, Vujcic fired in a five-meter jumper which for a 69-88 Maccabi lead, enough to show that the Euroleague champs stay as a top contender to win it all again yet again this season.
Thursday, December 15, 2005