By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv’s 85 - 76 defeat of EA7 Emporio Armani Milano is key for a couple of reasons: their Euroleague record is now 5 – 1, and they beat the only team in Group C to have beaten them so far this season, and by a greater margin than the seven-point loss they suffered in Week 1. Sofo Schortsanitis scored a career-high 28 points on an excellent night for the center, and Jordan Farmar contributed dazzling 21 points.
Maccabi’s starters were Devin Smith, David Blu, Jordan Farmar, Sofo Schortsanitis, and Keith Langford. Maccabi’s first points came from Sofo, who tied the score at 2 – 2 two and a half minutes into the game. It was just the beginning of a dominating performance by Maccabi’s big man, who added a hook shot and 1 before the Italians responded to tie the score at 7 – 7. Langford sank a three from the top of the arc to put Maccabi back on top, and Sofo scored off an over-the-shoulder dish by Farmar to make it 12 – 9 near the halfway point in the period. The Greek center also showed off his passing skills with an assist to Lior Eliyahu that put Maccabi up 16 – 9 a minute later. Still more points by Sofo, and excellent defense by Ohayon, added to Maccabi’s lead and the first quarter ended with the home team leading 25 – 14.
Maccabi kept the momentum as the second quarter got underway, with Eliyahu and team captain Tal Burstein (assist Guy Pnini) scoring to make it 32 – 17. Sofo’s seven points from the charity stripe extended Maccabi’s lead to 37 – 23 as the big man waged war under the basket. Malik Hairston scored twice for the visitors to trim their deficit below double digits, but Smith’s long two from near the corner made it 39 – 28 midway through the period. Farmar served up two straight layups before dropping a trey that put Maccabi up 47 – 31 with two minutes left in the quarter. Danilo Gallinari and Stefano Mancinelli scored for the Italians, but a buzzer-beating bucket on the inbounds from Sofo finished up the half with Maccabi leading 52 – 38.
Italian coach Sergio Scariolo must have lit a fire under his team during the break, because they came out burning hot at the start of the third quarter, going on a 10 – 0 scoring run in the first three minutes. Points by Sofo off a slick assist from Ohayon broke the ice for Maccabi, making it 54 – 48. Sofo and Ohayon paired up again and Smith scored a mid-range jumper, but Omar Cook responded with a three for Milano. David Blu drained one of his classic catch-and-shoots (assist Ohayon) to negate Cook, but points from Gallinari and Hairston pulled the visitors within three, 61 – 58 with three minutes left in the period. Richard Hendrix and Lior Eliyahu combined for six points to keep Maccabi on top 67 – 62 as the period ended.
Three straight buckets from Farmar at the start of the fourth quarter put Maccabi’s lead back in double digits, 74 – 64 after two minutes. Maccabi’s defense tightened the screws, allowing the visitors only four points in the first half of the final period. Gallinari scored twice but Farmar responded with a three from the right corner to make it 79 – 71 with three minutes left. Cook dropped a three pointer to make things just a little too interesting, 79 – 74 with two and a half minutes remaining. Hendrix sank two from the charity stripe, and continued to play excellent defense, wrapping up a hat trick of rejections with two consecutive blocks on the struggling Italians. Blu stole the ball with just seconds left, and Farmar’s bucket on the inbounds from Ohayon at the buzzer gave Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv a nine-point win over EA7 Emporio Armani Milano, 85 – 76, bringing them one big step closer to the Top 16.
Maccabi: Schortsanitis 28 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block; Farmar 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals; Smith 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist; Eliyahu 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block; Hendrix 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks; Ohayon 4 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals; Burstein 3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists; Langford 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Blu 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal.
Top scorers for Armani Milan: Gallinari 24 points; Fotsis 15 points.