By Amy Samin
In the eleventh week of the Adriatic League season, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv suffered their first loss at the hands of Croatian Champions KK Zagreb, 81 – 74, bringing their overall record to 9 – 1. Devin Smith and Keith Langford scored 12 points each, and Richard Hendrix contributed 10 points.
After the game, Maccabi’s head coach David Blatt said, “Aside from the first six or seven minutes, we played much better than we did on Thursday in Madrid, just not well enough to get the win. We moved the ball well, we reduced the number of turnovers, and we got the good shots but we didn’t get satisfactory scoring percentages. In juxtaposition to that, they had amazing percentages from three point range, including some not so easy shots, and this is the result. I’ll remind you that KK Zagreb is a Euroleague team, and they showed that here tonight. This is the kind of game that we need to learn to win even when we’re not at our best.”
“I want to emphasize that nothing that happened this week was a disaster, with the two losses in Madrid and Zagreb. Obviously it hurts, because we hate to lose, and there are a couple of not so good things that repeat themselves that we have to improve, but still: nothing terrible happened. These losses haven’t hurt us. This coming Thursday we have a major battle for second place in Group C in the Euroleague, and if we get that it will be a great achievement in a problematic season like this one. And in the other two leagues, the Israeli Lotto League and the Adriatic, we’re in first place and in an excellent position for what comes next.”
Maccabi’s starting five were Theo Papaloukas, David Blu, Lior Eliyahu, Sofo Schortsanitis and Keith Langford. The Croatians opened strong and jumped to a 9 – 0 lead early in the first quarter, until their run was stopped by Eliyahu with two straight buckets in the paint. The home team continued to play well and their lead reached double digits three and a half minutes from tipoff, 14 – 4. Maccabi scored mainly from the foul line in the second half of the period, with Sofo, Richard Hendrix and Guy Pnini all contributing; and Shawn James and Devin Smith scored from the field, but the Croatians seemed to sink every shot they put up and the period ended with Zagreb leading 28 – 19.
The first half of the second quarter saw the hosts maintaining their lead, which swelled to as much as ten and went no lower than six, until points by Smith put Maccabi within four, 36 – 32. A layup by Langford made it a two point game, but Saso Ozbolt scored three from the charity stripe for Zagreb to give them a five point lead, 39 – 34. Hendrix scored to narrow the gap, and Smith’s two free throws ended the quarter with Maccabi trailing by only one, 39 – 38.
David Blu scored from two and three point range in the early minutes of the third quarter to give Maccabi their first lead of the game, 43 – 42. The lead changed hands repeatedly in the first half of the period, with Blu and Langford scoring for Maccabi. A layup by Yogev Ohayon gave Maccabi their biggest lead of the game, 53 – 50, but the Croatians soon tied the score from the foul line and Ante Masic added a three pointer to put Zagreb up 58 – 53. Two straight buckets from Sofo put Maccabi within one again, making it 58 – 57 at the end of the third period.
The home team scored from outside the arc in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, but Jon Scheyer replied with a trey from the right corner to make it 61 – 60. Zagreb added two more three pointers, while Papaloukas created one with a layup and 1, and Scheyer drained another three. Halfway through the period the score stood at 71 – 66. Langford scored twice to narrow the gap yet again to one point, 71 – 70, but in short order Zagreb had regrown their lead to 78 – 70. Hendrix and Langford scored for Maccabi, but time ran out with the score 81 – 74, giving KK Zagreb the win over Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv.
Maccabi: Smith 12 points, 3 steals, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Langford 12 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound; Hendrix 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals; Papaloukas 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block; Blu 7 points, 3 rebounds; Scheyer 6 points, 2 rebounds; Eliyahu 6 points, 1 assist; Schortsanitis 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block; Ohayon 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal; Pnini 3 points, 3 rebounds; James 2 points, 2 rebounds.
Top Scorers for Zagreb: Simon 26 points; Kasun and Rancic 12 points each.