By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Euroleague holders Maccabi Tel Aviv and record eight-time winners Real Madrid edged closer to the playoffs of Europe's elite club competition with contrasting wins on Thursday.
Maccabi edged Panathinaikos 73-70 while Real recovered from an early 14-6 deficit to blow away Red Star Belgrade 85-61 after the visitors committed a whopping 19 turnovers.
Maccabi playmaker Jeremy Pargo produced another inspired performance, leading his team with 16 points as the champions repelled a second-half onslaught by the visitors.
Having led by double figures in the first half, Maccabi were pegged back by some fine long-range shooting after the interval and Yogev Ohayon also played a key role in the victory with a pair of crucial three-pointers.
“It was important to win this game and we did it thanks to good defense,” Maccabi coach Guy Goodes told Euroleague television.
“We decided not to foul when we were five points ahead in the closing stages because Panathinaikos have good free-throw shooters and we instead opted to run the clock down,” he said.
Real Madrid, fresh from lifting the Spanish cup with a dramatic win over rivals Barcelona on Sunday, overcame a slow start as guards Jaycee Carroll and Rudy Fernandez combined for 32 points against modest Red Star.
The visitors, who nailed only one of 14 three-point attempts, made a bright start but fizzled out quickly as Real turned on the heat and improved their second group stage record to 7-1.
“We are very happy with the result and the performance because the players were tired after a demanding cup tournament last week but we did a good job tonight,” Real coach Pablo Laso said.
Towering center Boban Marjanovic was the only beacon of light for Red Star with a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds but he had little support from his despondent team mates.
Lithuanians Zalgiris Kaunas, the 1999 winners, beat Galatasaray 72-59 to rekindle their own hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, as did Emporio Armani Milan with an 85-76 victory at Russians Nizhny Novgorod thanks to 36 points and nine rebounds by Jamaican Samardo Samuels.
“We’ve been up and down, the atmosphere has been a little bit weird and it was important for us to put the past behind us and move forward,” Samuels told the competition’s official website.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)