By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
Maccabi Tel Aviv finished the road game against Zalgiris Kaunas with a 2 – 17 run in the last four minutes to win 81 – 88 and rekindle its few playoff hopes while reducing the postseason chances of the Lithuanian team.
Dragan Bender scored a career-high 16 points while Chris Jones delivered 13 points plus six assists for Maccabi that was without center Othello Hunter. Elijah Bryant and Scottie Wilbekin had 12 points apiece while Ante Zizic posted 10 points plus six rebounds.
“We want to show we are still a good team, still playing hard on both ends of the floor no matter what and I think we showed that tonight,” Bender said.
“We showed how to play defense, how to be tough on defense, and everybody showed up in offense. We had five players in double-digits in scoring and that’s proof of a team offense, and how to play in the upcoming games.”
Zizic dunked the ball for the 81 – 84 with a minute to play after the go-ahead 3-pointer by Bryant. Zalgiris, that led 79 – 72 with 3:45 to play, was missing multiple jump shots being unable to successfully complete an offense to make at least make it a one-possession game.
Nigel Hayes had a career-high 24 points on 8 – 11 shots, along with five rebounds for Zalgiris while Marius Grigonis finished with 14 points (5-3 shots), five assists and six turnovers. The Lithuanian team began the game strong to take a 23 – 10 early lead but Maccabi recovered quickly to go up in the second period. The two teams remained close until Zalgiris went ahead by seven points in the final period, only to suffer another, and this time definite, comeback by its opponents.
“We [beat] them with good defense, we scored 50 points in the second and I think defense was the key, the defense we played against these players after halftime, as we had also production on offense,” Maccabi coach Giannis Sfairopoulos said. “We need to fight all the games, game by game.”
The battle continues
Maccabi’s chances to make the postseason remain extremely slim and the Yellows will try to make the most out of them, according to Jones.
“[The key for what happened in the end was] being poised, just trying to show ourselves, to everybody else, that we still have to fight regardless the standings,” Jones said. “It’s just a couple of games left, and we have to continue fighting, no matter the outcome. It’s a great win on the road. [Our goal was] just being aggressive, to pay attention to details, and be focused on their key players, it was a great team win. [Our approach for next games is] just continue to fight no matter the outcome or the standings, and to build within ourselves.”
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball