By Amy Samin
Another successful road trip. After beating Zalgiris in Kaunas, Lithuania in a Euroleague Top 16 game on Thursday night, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv handed an Adriatic League defeat to hosts Partizan Belgrade. Team captain Tal Burstein had an excellent game, scoring 18 points (8 of 11 from the foul line). Sofo Schortsanitis added 12 points; David Blu and Yogev Ohayon had 9 points each.
Head coach David Blatt summed up the game: “In a season with so many games, sometimes without paying attention you take things for granted. In my opinion, to set off on a journey like this and gain a victory in a very important and high-pressure Euroleague game in Lithuania, in front of a large and hostile crowd, then 48 hours later to play in Belgrade under very similar conditions against a team that needs the win a lot more than we do, a team that is also a Euroleague team that has beaten a lot of good teams here in this arena – including us – that shows that something very good is happening in our team.”
“Regarding Burstein, this is not the first time this season our captain has come into a game and fired everyone up. He wasn’t the only one of course, but he was the key factor in our victory tonight with his leadership and the game he played he showed that he is a true captain. He didn’t play at all on Thursday, partly because he had been sick and hadn’t practiced much, and also because the game was going well without him and I was counting on him for tonight and wanted to use this game to get him back in the swing of things. Like the leader and professional that he is, he picked up the ball and ran with it.”
Maccabi’s starters were Demond Mallet, David Blu, Keith Langford, Devin Smith and Sofo Schortsanitis. The early minutes of the game saw little offensive action, and at the halfway mark the score was 8 – 6 in favor of the hosts. Seconds after coming into the game, team captain Tal Burstein scored a three pointer and followed it with a dunk and 1 fueled by a steal by Richard Hendrix, tying the score at 12 with three and a half minutes left in the period. Partizan didn’t let Maccabi take the lead, however, and the quarter ended with the home team up 24 – 17.
Partizan extended their lead to double digits three minutes into the second quarter, 32 – 19 off two straight three pointers from the same spot by Vladimir Lučić. Blu and Hendrix added points for Maccabi, but the hosts’ lead remained comfortable until a three by Ohayon (assist Langford) and a layup by Langford narrowed the gap a bit - 37 – 28 midway through the period. Four straight points by Sofo and another trey from Burstein made it 41 – 35 with three and a half minutes left in the half. Miroslav Raduljica’s six straight points kept the hosts in the lead, but points from Langford (assist Hendrix), Ohayon, and Hendrix brought Maccabi within four, 47 – 43 with a minute on the clock. Milan Mačvan scored for the home team, but points from the foul line by Langford with 44 seconds on the clock set the stage for a classic three point Blu-and-shoot (assist Burstein) at the buzzer to tie the game 48 – 48 going into the halftime break.
The hosts scored first at the start of the third quarter, but Sofo and Burstein took turns scoring until after three minutes a smooth drive between defenders by the captain made it 55 all. A layup by Mačvan was answered by a drive in the lane by Mallet, then Blu scored a spinning fadeaway to put Maccabi on top for the first time in the game, 59 – 57. A timeout didn’t help Partizan much, because Maccabi’s defense went into overdrive, with a shot clock violation, a steal and a block by Hendrix, and defensive rebounds putting control of the game into Maccabi’s hands. The offense also stepped up the tempo, with Hendrix, Scheyer (steal + assist Hendrix) and Smith (assist Ohayon) adding points from the floor. Ohayon was fouled after intercepting a pass by Mačvan and sank both free throws, while Scheyer drained a three from the left corner to cap off a five-minute, 15 – 0 scoring run for Maccabi, 70 – 57 with less than a minute and a half left in the period. The home team scored a couple of free throws and a pair of layups to end the quarter with Maccabi leading 70 – 63.
Partizan were able to narrow their deficit to only 6 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Scheyer, Burstein and Blu grew the lead back to ten after two minutes, 76 – 66. The home team didn’t give up and once again managed to pull within one basket of tying the game after points from Danilo Andusic, Lučić and Raduljica made it 78 – 75 with two and a half minutes left in the game. A layup by Smith and two points from the charity stripe by Burstein gave Maccabi some breathing room, as did a steal by the captain. The remaining points scored in the game by both sides came from the foul line, (which saw plenty of action in a game with a total of 71 attempted free throws on the night) and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv claimed an 84 – 78 win over Partizan mt:s Belgrade.
Maccabi: Burstein 18 points, 2 steals, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Schortsanitis 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Blu 9 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Ohayon 9 points, 2 assists, 1 steal; Hendrix 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 1 block; Langford 8 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound; Scheyer 8 points, 1 rebound; James 6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block; Smith 4 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist; Mallet 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist.
Top scorers for Partizan: Andusic 18 points; Lucic 16 points.