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Dramatic win: Basketball giant Maccabi Tel Aviv closes in on EuroLeague semifinals amid controversy

Opposing club and coach fined for anti-Israeli statements during series

Game 1 match between Panathinaikos AKTOR Athens and Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv at OAKA Altion in Athens, Greece, on April 23, 2024 (Photo: Nicolas Koutsokostas/NurPhoto).

After a dramatic 85-83 victory over Panathinaikos Athens on Tuesday evening, Israel’s basketball giant Maccabi Tel Aviv is now just one win away from reaching the Final Four of the EuroLeague, the toughest basketball competition after the NBA.

Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv now leads 2-1 against the Greek club, in a best-of-five series.

After jumping out to an early lead, Maccabi stayed in control throughout the first half, which ended with a 9-point advantage for the Israeli side. While the lead ballooned to 18 points in the third quarter, the Greeks stormed back and tied the game just 42 seconds before the buzzer.

A dramatic homestretch saw Maccabi prevail after Lorenzo Brown, who finished with 16 points and 8 assists, netted two free throws to ice the game.

Josh Nebo led the Israeli club with 22 points and 9 rebounds, while former NBA star Kendrick Nunn led Panathinaikos with 25 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting.

Despite being a perennial European powerhouse for the past decades with six title wins, Maccabi hasn’t reached the Final Four since winning the trophy in 2013.

Israel’s representatives in international basketball competitions, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Jerusalem, and Hapoel Tel Aviv, were forced to play home games in Belgrade, Serbia this season due to Israel's ongoing war against the Hamas terrorists in Gaza, making Maccabi’s success this season all the more remarkable.

Despite the distance, several thousand fans accompanied their team to Belgrade to witness the dramatic win.

The series against Panathinaikos attracted additional controversy, as the Greek club was fined €30,000 $32,000) for implying that the referees were biased toward Tel Aviv following Maccabi’s Game 1 win.

The club also pointed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a potential factor influencing the biased refereeing

“While we refuse to believe that the tragic events unfolding around the world (in Russia, Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine) could influence basketball decisions, given the glaring mistakes in yesterday's game, we can't think of any other reason,” the club stated.

Panathinaikos Athen's Turkish coach, Ergin Ataman, was personally fined €35,000 (over $37,000) fined for claiming that the referees were biased and for his refusal to speak with an Israeli reporter during a media-open practice before the second game of the series.

Game 4 will be played in Belgrade on Thursday evening, Israel Daylight Time (IDT).

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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