In the only Euroleague Top 8 series to go the distance, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv fought to the end but lost 86 – 85 to Panathinaikos Athens, who will advance to the Final Four in Istanbul. David Blu led all scorers for Maccabi with 14 points, Keith Langford added 11 points and 5 assists, and team captain Tal Burstein and point guard Yogev Ohayon each contributed 10 points.
Maccabi’s starters were David Blu, Devin Smith, Yogev Ohayon, Keith Langford and Sofo Schortsanitis. Maccabi took a 6 – 2 lead off points from Blu, Ohayon and Langford, but the hosts took an 8 – 6 lead minutes later with points from Mike Batiste. A three from Blu (assist Hendrix) on the left wing put Maccabi back on top, but the lead went on to change hands 8 more times before the period ended with team captain Tal Burstein giving Maccabi a 20 – 18 lead with a stop and pop at the top of the arc.
The first half of the second quarter remained close, with the teams taking turns scoring and taking a slim lead over one another. Excellent defense by Shawn James also helped Maccabi stay close. Close to the halfway point in the period Dimitris Diamantidis scored four straight free throws to put the hosts up 28 – 24. The Greeks went on to extend their lead with points from the charity stripe; with three and a half minutes left in the quarter the score was 34 – 26. The last minutes of the half were mostly played from the foul line, and the teams went into the break with Panathinaikos leading 41 – 32.
Maccabi came back for the start of the third period with renewed energy, and after four minutes had tied the score at 46 with points by Richard Hendrix, Blu and Ohayon. But Saras Jasikevicius and his teammates came storming back, taking a 56 – 46 lead. Smith put a stop to the run and Burstein contributed a deuce and a trey, but the Greeks held on and the period ended with Maccabi trailing 62 – 53.
Panathinaikos continued to look good at the start of the fourth quarter, extending their lead to twelve in the early minutes, 70 – 58. A three point catch and shoot by Guy Pnini (assist Hendrix) on the left wing gave Maccabi renewed hope, and Ohayon and Blu scored to put Maccabi within six, 73 – 67 with just under four minutes remaining. The hosts didn’t make things easy for their guests, but once again Pnini came through from downtown (assist Langford) to make it 78 – 72 with two minutes left. Langford scored a three on the right wing and followed it with two from the foul line to make it a two point game, 81 – 79 with 53 seconds on the clock. Diamantidis scored from the line yet again, but Blu came through with a slick layup off a backdoor pass from Hendrix and sank the and 1 to make it 83 – 82 with 12 seconds left. Diamantidis scored more free throws (he was 15 of 18 on the night; Maccabi as a team only attempted 22 foul shots) to put the Greeks up 85 – 82. Pnini was fouled while attempting a three pointer and made all of his free throws to tie the score at 85 with 9 seconds left, but Diamantidis made one final trip to the charity stripe and scored one of two to give current Euroleague champions Panathinaikos Athens the 86 – 85 win over Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv.
Maccabi: Blu 14 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound; Langford 11 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Burstein 10 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Ohayon 10 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 assist; Smith 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block; Pnini 9 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound; Hendrix 8 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound; Schortsanitis 8 points, 2 rebounds; Eliyahu 4 points; James 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, 1 block; Papaloukas 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 assist.
Top scorers for Panathinaikos: Diamantidis 25 points; Jasikevicius 13 points.