By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv wrapped up their weekend with their third victory in four days when they defeated B.C. Habikaa 89 – 79 in a closely-fought game at Nokia Arena. Richard Hendrix was Maccabi’s top performer on the night, with an impressive double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Also impressive were Devin Smith (16 points, 8 rebounds), Tal Burstein and Keith Langford (15 points each). Later this week Maccabi hits the road again for a string of four away games; the team’s next home game will be on January 2, 2012.
After the game, head coach David Blatt said, “It was a good game for both teams. Habikaa deserves praise, they played well and they played hard. This was our first time winning back-to-back games; we did a better job this time than we did the last time; even though we struggled in the first half, we knew how to come back and win it. That showed a lot of character.”
Maccabi’s starters were Yogev Ohayon, Keith Langford, Devin Smith, David Blu, and Shawn James. The home team played well in the early minutes and jumped to an 11 – 2 lead thanks to points by Langford, Ohayon, James and Smith, as well as thanks to tough defense. A layup by Frank Robinson galvanized Habikaa, who fought hard to get back into the game and managed to pull within two before more points from Smith made it 13 – 9 with just under three minutes left in the period. Nir Cohen again cut that lead to two, but Ohayon scored off an assist from Richard Hendrix, and then paid it forward with a dish to David Blu who drained a fadeaway jumper, 17 – 11 Maccabi. Team captain Tal Burstein added a drive to the basket and 1, but Paul Delaney responded for the visitors. Time ran out on the first period with Maccabi leading 22 – 19.
Hendrix drove to the basket and sank a foul shot to make it 25 – 21 only thirty seconds into the second quarter. Robinson and his teammate Ezequiel Skverer combined to put the lead in Habikaa’s hands, 31 – 27 after three minutes. The visitors’ foreign players continued to dominate in the second half of the period, with Robinson and Delaney working to extend their lead to 37 – 30. Burstein scored off a brilliant assist from Guy Pnini, but Dion Dowell responded to make it 40 – 32. Smith added points off an inbounds play but Robinson sank a shot from outside the arc to put the visitors up by nine, 43 – 34 with less than three minutes left. Hendrix slammed home a dunk off a Burstein steal/assist and Smith scored on another inbounds play at the buzzer to put Maccabi within five, 46 – 41 going into halftime.
The first three minutes of the third quarter were almost all Maccabi, with Langford and Smith scoring and James making back-to-back blocks to deny Habikaa the chance to reopen their lead. Hendrix dished to Blu who tied the score with a three pointer, 48 all. Burstein put the lead back in Maccabi’s hands after an assist from Langford, but Cohen managed to tie the score at 51. Burstein and Langford combined again to retake the lead but Robinson retied it at 53. Langford then scored the go-ahead bucket that put Maccabi up to stay, with three minutes left in the period. Hendrix and Pnini finished up the quarter with the big man scoring two three point plays (buckets plus free throws), and Pnini dropping two straight from downtown. The quarter ended with Maccabi leading by eight, 67 – 59.
An off-balance one handed shot at the 24 second buzzer by Hendrix put Maccabi’s lead in double digits for the first score of the fourth quarter after a minute and a half of play. Cohen scored a three for Habikaa, but Smith responded in kind from the top of the arc. Points from Dowell and Delaney brought the visitors to within seven, 78 – 71 with less than four minutes left in the game. Tough defense by Burstein resulted in a steal, and the captain went on to score off a rebound/assist from Hendrix, who then pulled down another board and dished to Langford to make it 82 – 71. Hendrix slammed down another dunk (assist Ohayon) and Smith scored on yet another inbounds play (assist Burstein) to make it 87 – 73 with 1:39 on the clock. Habikaa managed to score a few more times, but Burstein’s drive in a wide-open lane for the dunk wrapped up the game and gave Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv an 89 – 79 win over B.C. Habikaa and took their record to 8 – 1 in the Israeli Lotto League.
Maccabi: Hendrix 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal; Smith 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist; Burstein 15 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals; Langford 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists; Ohayon 8 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound; Pnini 8 points, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 rebound; Blu 5 points, 2 rebounds; James 4 points, 3 blocks, 2 rebounds.
Top scorers for Habikaa: Delaney 25 points; Robinson 21 points.