Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv crushed Crvena Zvezda 101 – 66 in the Adriatic League five days before the first game of the Euroleague Top 8 quarterfinals against Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. Sofo Schortsanitis (8 of 8 from the field) and Keith Langford (6 of 6 from 2 point range) led the team with 17 points each. Four additional players scored in double digits: Devin Smith and David Blu added 13 and 11 points, respectively, and team captain Tal Burstein scored 10 points and made 10 assists for a double double. The last game before the quarterfinals will take place on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Radnički in the Adriatic League.
Devin Smith, David Blu, Tal Burstein, Sofo Schortsanitis, and Keith Langford started the game for Maccabi, and came out with guns blazing. Sofo opened the game with six quick points (assists by Burstein) and Burstein rejected a shot by Omar Thomas for the visitors. Smith’s three pointer came off a pass from Sofo to Langford for the dish, and Sofo scored again on a dime from the captain to make it 11 – 2 Maccabi three minutes into the period. Crvena Zvezda finally managed their second bucket of the game, but points by – guess who? – Sofo (assist Langford), a trey by Burstein (assist Blu), and the first of many dazzling layups by Langford made it 18 – 4 just past the halfway mark. The visitors put together a string of five points, but Blu and Shawn James each delivered mid-range jumpers (assists Guy Pnini and Demond Mallet) and Smith added points from downtown to make it 25 – 11 with less than two minutes remaining in the period. The quarter ended with Maccabi leading 26 – 13.
Maccabi opened the second quarter with strong defense that led to sloppy ball-handling and turnovers by Crvena Zvezda. Meanwhile, Theo Papaloukas and Langford each drove to the basket (with the latter adding an and 1) and Maccabi showed excellent ball-movement, with a Blu to Langford to James combination resulting in more points in the paint plus free throw by the latter, 34 – 16 Maccabi after close to four minutes. Nemanja Nedović scored for the visitors, but Smith’s layup on the fastbreak put Maccabi’s lead at twenty, 38 – 18. The visitors became even more rattled on offense, and couldn’t find a way to put the stops on Maccabi’s offense, either. Langford cut through defenders effortlessly, hanging poised in the air while sending up perfectly-timed layups. With three minutes left in the half, Maccabi led 45 – 20. Smith grabbed his third steal of the night and went coast-to-coast for the punishment at the other end, and Richard Hendrix added points in the paint off a dish from Burstein. Jon Scheyer showed his usual tenacity on defense, stealing the ball and taking a foul, which he converted to points from the charity stripe. A classic Blu-and-shoot from the right corner (assist Burstein) was followed by points from Pnini and Scheyer in the paint, and the half ended with Maccabi in clearcontrol of the game, 58 – 24.
The Serbians seemed to find their rhythm in the early minutes of the third quarter, outscoring Maccabi 6 – 2 until a fadeaway jumper by Blu made it 62 – 30. Bojan Subotić and Bojan Popović each scored for the visitors, but a Scheyer to Sofo combination for points in the paint nipped the budding run. The duo also teamed up on defense on the high post, giving Pnini the opportunity to commit petty larceny, which led to another layup by Langford. An excellent pass by Pnini to Sofo resulted in a massive slam, which was soon followed by a putback by Smith. With two minutes left in the period Maccabi led 70 – 38. More excellent defense by Maccabi, especially Scheyer, held Crvena Zvezda to only three points for the rest of the period, while Pnini added points from outside the arc (assist Papaloukas) and James added a reverse and 1 (one free throw, rebound and putback on the second free throw) to end the period with Maccabi up 76 – 41.
Ever the showman, Pnini drained a three from the top of the arc at the shot clock buzzer (assist Burstein) early in the fourth quarter, then served up a slick one-handed dish to Sofo, 81 – 44, Maccabi. Burstein scored twice on assists from Papaloukas, and Langford also benefited from one of the Greek point guard’s passes, making it 87 – 47 four minutes into the final period. Talented teen Idan Zalmanson came into the game and showed his skills, playing tough defense that included two blocks, and scoring in the paint on a layup and a putback. The Serbians added points from the free throw line, but Burstein scored a three-pointer from the left corner (assist Papaloukas) to make it 98 – 59 with under a minute and a half remaining. Scheyer’s three from the same spot put Maccabi over the century mark, and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Crvena Zvezda by a score of 101 – 66.
Maccabi: Langford 17 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists; Schortsanitis 17 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Smith 13 points, 4 steals, 3 rebounds; Blu 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist; Burstein 10 points,10 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block; Pnini 10 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound; James 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist; Scheyer 7 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 assist; Zalmanson 4 points, 2 blocks, 1 rebound; Papaloukas 2 points, 9 assists, 2 rebounds; Hendrix 2 points, 2 rebounds; Mallet 2 assists, 1 rebound.
Top scorers for Crvena Zvezda: Lesić 14 points; Cvetković and Subotić 11 points each.