By Amy Samin
Game MVP Keith Langford had a stupendous game, scoring 21 points to lead Maccabi to an 84 – 75 home win over Hapoel Holon. Also in fine form were Richard Hendrix (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Devin Smith (15 points, 3 of 4 from 3 point range).
After the game, Maccabi’s head coach David Blatt said, “A lot of you have been waiting to see us fail, but you’re wrong, because we’re not going anywhere. I tip my hat to the players for the fine job they did; they played like men. Keith Langford did not “forget” how to play basketball; he is an outstanding basketball player and furthermore, I’d like to remind you all that it took Anthony Parker three months to get acclimated here and he came at the start of the season; Langford arrived in the middle.”
Blatt gave the opening nod to Shawn James, Yogev Ohayon, Keith Langford, Lior Eliyahu and Devin Smith. Tasmin Mitchell and Holon opened strong and jumped to a 6 – 2 lead early in the first quarter, but a three from the top of the arc by Ohayon set the stage for the go-ahead bucket provided by Smith from the left corner. Bryant Dunston tied the score, but Langford drilled one in at the shot clock buzzer to put Maccabi back on top, 10 – 8 near the halfway mark. Smith was on fire, scoring two more threes in quick succession to make it 18 – 10 with four minutes left in the period. The visitors battled back in an 8 – 0 scoring run to retie the game at 18 with a minute and a half left in the quarter. A free throw by Richard Hendrix gave Maccabi a one point lead at the end of the first period, 19 – 18.
The lead wobbled back and forth at the start of the second quarter, with Hendrix and Langford scoring (and Guy Pnini assisting) for Maccabi. A catch-and-shoot from the right wing by David Blu extended Maccabi’s lead to 28 – 23, and six straight points from Smith (the last two coming thanks to a tough full-court press that led to a steal by Blu) made it 34 – 25. Holon scored twice to narrow the deficit, but Pnini’s shot from outside the arc (assist Langford) bumped the score up to 37 – 29. Mitchell kept Holon in the game with five straight points, but a putback dunk by Hendrix closed out the half with Maccabi leading 41 – 37.
Langford opened the second half with a two-pointer while a Blu-and-shoot from downtown (assist Ohayon) made it 46 – 41, Maccabi after two minutes. Points by Mitchell and Moran Roth gave Holon a one point lead, 47 – 46 after four minutes of play in the quarter, but two straight baskets by Eliyahu and tough defense by Hendrix gave Maccabi back the lead, 50 – 49 two minutes later. James contributed points in the paint, but the last four minutes of the period were practically all Langford, who scored two treys and four two pointers to take Maccabi to a 64 – 55 lead at the end of three quarters.
It was Maccabi’s big men who dominated the final quarter of the game, starting with another putback dunk by Hendrix and two from the foul line by James. Hendrix also got off a nice mid-range jumper to put Maccabi’s lead back in double digits, 70 – 59 after two minutes in the period. Pnini and James both scored from the charity stripe and James also added points in the paint to make it 76 – 61 near the halfway mark in the quarter. More points from Hendrix set the score at 81 – 66 with just under three minutes left on the clock, but Ron Lewis and Holon weren’t ready to concede defeat, going on a 9 – 3 scoring run that ultimately only managed to take some of the sting out of their defeat. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv ended up defeating Hapoel Holon 84 – 75.
Maccabi: Langford 21 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal; Hendrix 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals; Smith 15 points, 1 assist; James 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist; Blu 6 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist; Eliyahu 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Pnini 6 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound; Ohayon 5 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal.
Top scorers for Holon: Mitchell and Lewis 8 points each.