David Blu went 4 for 4 from outside the arc and finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds in Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv’s victory over KK Zagreb in the Adriatic League. Demond Mallet and Devin Smith each contributed 15 points. Maccabi finished the game with a total of 14 three pointers. Shawn James returned to the active list after being sidelined with a herniated disc in his back, and finished with 5 points, 2 rebounds and a block. Keith Langford got the night off. Maccabi faces Maccabi Offici Rishon Lezion tomorrow (Sunday) at Nokia Arena.
After the game, Maccabi’s head coach David Blatt said, “This is the time to work on certain things and also to make sure we don’t lose our focus and our passion. It’s the coaches’ job to know when to put on the pressure and when to relax.” About Sofo Schortsanitis, who made 7 assists in the game, the coach said, “Tonight Sofo scored the most beautiful two points of his career here in Israel.”
The coach also addressed the team’s schedule. “It’s very difficult to play these back to back games. We have five games in the next seven and a half days. After that we have the [Euroleague] quarterfinals, and so you saw a rotation of players. Langford didn’t play tonight, Hendrix only played 7 minutes, and there weren’t more than two players who played more than twenty minutes tonight. It’s not simple, and sometimes it interferes with the flow. When we needed to be good, we were, and we accomplished what we wanted to. I’m very pleased with the way Mallet and James played, though obviously James isn’t back to peak condition yet. But he went into the game and got back to playing, which means it’s possible to count on him in the near future.”
Demond Mallet said, “I kind of lost my confidence for a couple of games, but I just stay positive and come to win. I’m looking forward to the quarterfinals; it’s a challenge for us but we’re also a great team and our goal is to make it to the Final Four.”
Starters for Maccabi were Devin Smith, Demond Mallet, Richard Hendrix, Yogev Ohayon and Lior Eliyahu. The early minutes of the first quarter saw the lead change with every possession, with six of Maccabi’s points coming from Hendrix; after three minutes Maccabi lead 8 – 7. Points by Eliyahu and Mallet gave Maccabi a 12 – 7 lead a minute later. Damir Mulaomerović scored a layup for Zagreb but a trey by Smith at the top of the arc (assist Eliyahu) gave Maccabi a ten point lead, 19 – 9 and caused Zagreb’s head coach to call a time out. Smith drained another three pointer (assist Theo Papaloukas), and David Blu added an amazing three straight from downtown (all assists by Sofo Schortsanitis). The period ended with Maccabi leading 31 – 15.
The second quarter got off to a slow start, but Papaloukas, Jon Scheyer and David Blu all scored layups in just over a minute to make it 38 – 15 two and a half minutes into the period. Ante Mašić scored for the visitors, but Scheyer responded with a catch-and-shoot on the right wing off a dime from Ohayon, and newly-returned Shawn James added a big man’s three pointer (bucket and 1) to make it 44 – 17 with six and a half minutes left in the period. The Croatians put together a 9 – 0 scoring run and managed to pull within eighteen, but Sofo’s putback ended the streak, and soon after Guy Pnini scored in the paint off a dish from Sofo. Damir Markota added a layup for Zagreb to end the half with Maccabi leading 48 – 30.
Krunoslav Simon scored twice at the start of the third quarter, but points from downtown by Smith (assist Blu) broke the visitors’ rhythm. Ohayon and Mallet each added threes, and Smith and Mallet also scored in the paint to put Maccabi up 61 – 36 close to the halfway mark in the period. Mallet added more points from outside the arc and Smith threw down a dunk off an assist from Blu at the end of a nice offensive sequence by Maccabi. Blu snuck in two more points through the backdoor to take Maccabi’s lead to thirty, 68 – 38 with three minutes left in the period. James added a deuce and Pnini scored off a catch-and-shoot (assist Eliyahu); Markota’s two at the end of the period didn’t help much, as for the third straight quarter Maccabi held their opponents to 15 points. Heading into the final period Maccabi led 73 – 45.
Sašo Ožbolt and Mašić scored for Zagreb as the fourth quarter got underway, but James treated the crowd to one of his classic blocks, rejecting more points by Mašić. A long bomb off a defensive rebound by team captain Tal Burstein ended in points from Eliyahu to make it 75 – 51, four minutes into the period. Mallet served up another three off the dish by Scheyer, but Ožbolt responded in kind. The visitors continued to make the effort on offense, with Mašić and Markota scoring successive three pointers; with three minutes remaining Maccabi’s lead was 80 – 63. Burstein added a three of his own and Blu delivered five more points to end the game with Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv claiming a decisive victory over KK Zagreb, 88 – 68.
Maccabi: Blu 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Mallet 15 points, 2 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal; Smith 15 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound; Hendrix 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Eliyahu 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists; Pnini 5 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound; Ohayon 5 points, 4 steals, 2 assists, 1 rebound; Scheyer 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist; James 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block; Burstein 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Schortsanitis 2 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block; Papaloukas 2 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals.
Top scorers for KK Zagreb: Markota and Mašić 12 points each; Mulaomerović 11 points.