By Amy Samin
The King of Clutch, Guy Pnini, ended his scoring drought and came through in a big way in a tough game against Cedevita, scoring 26 points (including 5 of 6 from 3 point range) to lead Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv to a thrilling 96 – 89 win and an 8 – 0 record in the Adriatic League. Jordan Farmar, in what may have been his last game in Nokia Arena, scored 15 points and made 13 assists. Hendrix also scored 15, Smith contributed 14, and Burstein added 9 points.
Blatt led off with Devin Smith, Lior Eliyahu, Jordan Farmar, Sofo Schortsanitis, and Keith Langford. The visitors, who arrived in Tel Aviv with 100 of their devoted fans, scored first and quickly jumped to an 8 – 0 lead, but points by Sofo under the basket (assist Farmar) halted the run. Richard Hendrix came into the game for the Greek center, quickly scoring twice on a tip in and an alley oop from Farmar to make it 13 – 6, Cedevita. Matjaz Smodis and Cedevita worked to keep their lead, but a mid-range jumper by Shawn James and two straight buckets by Smith (including a smooth three from the left corner) narrowed the gap to 18 – 13 with two minutes left in the period. The Croatians managed to build a double-digit lead, but Hendrix drove up the middle to cut it back down to nine, 24 – 15 with just under two minutes left in the quarter. A stop-and-pop three by Guy Pnini on the right side fired up the crowd and the team with just over a minute left in the period, and the quarter ended with Maccabi trailing by only five, 26 – 21.
Chris Owens scored at the start of the second quarter, but Pnini drained another trey to keep Maccabi close. Hendrix scored off an assist from team captain Tal Burstein and added the extra point to make it a 30 – 27 game. Yet another bucket from downtown by Pnini tied things up, and Burstein followed his example with a three of his own from the right corner; just over two minutes into the second period, Maccabi took the lead for the first time in the game, 33 – 30. Pnini continued to score and Farmar contributed one of his dazzling reverse layups to make it 38 – 32 near the halfway mark in the period. Smith, James, Pnini, and Farmar all scored to keep Maccabi in the lead, and a buzzer-beating basket from outside the arc by Pnini (assist Farmar) gave Maccabi a double-digit lead going into the halftime break, 54 – 44.
Langford scored to open the third quarter, but Miro Bilan and Cedevita battled their way back into the game, and after two minutes the score was 57 – 49. Farmar sank a three pointer, but a bucket and 1 by Bilan and points by Dontaye Draper hacked away at Maccabi’s lead until the Croatians had pulled within two, 60 – 58. It was – who else? – Pnini who pulled Maccabi back from the brink with another catch-and-shoot three (assist Burstein), but Marino Bazdaric and Marko Car responded to make it a one point game, 63 – 62 with three and a half minutes remaining in the quarter. Farmar and Pnini scored but Smodis and Car did as well, and two straight buckets by James were answered with a three from Draper, ending the third period with Maccabi leading by two, 74 – 72.
Draper opened the final quarter with another basket from downtown, giving the lead back to the visitors. The score see-sawed for awhile, with Maccabi pulling ahead on points by Hendrix (a massive dunk and points off an assist from Pnini) and Farmar and Cedevita tying the score. A catch-and-shoot by Smith in the left corner with five and a half minutes left in the game put Maccabi up for good, 85 – 82. Layups by Smith, Langford and Hendrix made it 92 – 84 with three and a half minutes remaining. Vedran Vukusic and Draper scored for Cedevita, but points from the charity stripe by Farmar and Smith wrapped the win up for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, who defeated Cedevita 96 – 89.
Maccabi: Pnini 26 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist; Farmar 15 points, 13 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Hendrix 15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal; Smith 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist; Burstein 9 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists; James 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal; Langford 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Schortsanitis 3 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Eliyahu 1 point, 1 rebound.
Top scorers for Cedevita: Draper 28 points; Bilan 12 points.