Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Devin Smith.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv enters Thursday’s Euroleague showdown with Alba Berlin with its confidence sky-high. Even a 21-point deficit couldn’t halt the yellowand- blue’s march on Monday.
Maccabi notched its 21st win from 22 games over all competitions by beating Maccabi Haifa 74-70 in BSL action, overcoming the greens despite shooting just 1-of-17 from the field to begin the game.
Maccabi has lost just one game since the start of December and will be extremely optimistic of beating Alba for the third time this season and for a 10th consecutive game in all on Thursday.
The yellow-and-blue defeated Alba 84-69 on the road and 95-89 at home in the Euroleague regular season.
Guy Goodes’s team remained neck and neck with Real Madrid at the top of Top 16 Group E last week after improving to 5-1 with an overtime win over Galatasaray in Turkey thanks to Jeremy Pargo’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Maccabi beat Barcelona and Real Madrid in its past two Euroleague home contests, and while Alba did claim a win over Barca in its Top 16 opener, the Germans have lost four of five games since and enter Thursday as a firm underdog.
“Maccabi already more or less has made it to the playoffs and has a good chance to finish first or second in our group,” said Berlin coach Sasa Obradovic.
“Against Panathinaikos we had 24 turnovers and still in the end had a chance to win the game. If we find a way to reduce our turnovers, which killed us in already too many games, we can be a dangerous opponent for every team in this group.”
Goodes scolded his players after the win against Haifa, but was at least pleased by the fact that it helped prepare his team for Thursday and for next week’s State Cup semifinal, also against Haifa.
“We have a lot to improve on ahead of the next 10 days,” said Goodes.
“But at least this was a very good preparation for Thursday from an aggressiveness standpoint.”
Devin Smith leads four Maccabi players averaging double-figures in the Top 16 with 14.2 points per game and will be aiming to build on his 24-point performance against Galatasaray last week.
“We were lucky we managed to come back against Haifa,” said Smith. “We didn’t arrive at the game from a proper mental standpoint, but fortunately we have enough experience to overcome such situations. Nevertheless, we can’t afford to enter games like this, because we won’t always be able to fight back and win.”
Goodes warned his roster against Alba’s full-court pressure, which he believes Maccabi can take advantage of as long as the players will be ready for it.
“We will have to run and score easy baskets, because it is very difficult to play set offense against Alba,” Goodes said. “Alba never gives up, so even if we open a gap we will need to remain very patient.
“It is very important for us to protect our home court and we will have to improve on our defensive performances against Galatasaray and Haifa. I hope we learned our lesson.”