Maccabi Tel Aviv's Brian Randle (L) drives the lane during a game.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
With a runner-up finish in regular season Group B already secure, Maccabi Tel Aviv can turn its focus to the upcoming challenge it faces in the Euroleague Top 16.
Maccabi ends the regular season with a meaningless game against Unicaja Malaga at Nokia Arena on Thursday night. Nevertheless, the yellow-and-blue will still hope to record its fifth win in its past six continental contests to ensure it enters the next round of action with momentum on its side.
Maccabi already knows it will be facing Panathinaikos in Top 16 Group E, with the Greek powerhouse guaranteed to end regular season Group C in third place.
Barring an unlikely combination of results, Maccabi will also face Barcelona in the next stage.
Barca is set to win Group C, with the only way the Catalans can drop to second is for them to lose to Panathinaikos on Friday and for Fenerbahce Ulker to beat Bayern Munich, with the combined margin of victory from the two games to be at least 60 points.
Tel Aviv will also face once more the team which ends its current group in fourth place, either Malaga or Alba Berlin.
The team to finish Group A in first place will also be with the yellow-and-blue in the Top 16, which will be the winner of Thursday’s showdown between Real Madrid and Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Spain.
Completing the eight-team Top 16 group will be the side who finishes third in Group A and the teams which end Group D in second and fourth place.
After a total of 14 games, the top four will advance to the quarterfinal playoffs. Regardless of the ultimate identity of Maccabi’s rivals, it is already clear that reaching the last eight for the sixth straight season and for the 11th time in the past 12 years is far from a given.
Maccabi coach Guy Goodes and the club’s management understand that the team’s performance level in the regular season will not be good enough to progress to the quarterfinals and plan to strengthen the roster ahead of the start of the Top 16 on January 1.
Center Aleks Maric and the rarely-used Nate Linhart are both likely to leave, although Tel Aviv has yet to announce the addition of a new player.
Real Madrid big-man Marcus Slaughter seemed to be on the verge of signing with the yellowand- blue earlier this week, but the move has stalled due to a disagreement within the Maccabi management regarding the cost of bringing in the American.
“We need another big man,” said Maccabi team manager Nikola Vujcic. “Maric’s contract is about to end, but at the moment we can’t find the player we want.”
After a rough start to the season, Marques Haynes is finally looking settled at the club, ending any rumors that he may be cut after the regular season.
The 28-year-old guard hit 7-of-7 three-point attempts on the way to 21 points in Monday’s BSL victory over Ironi Ness Ziona.
After missing last week’s Euroleague win at Cedevita Zagreb through injury, he will be aiming to prove against Malaga that he can also play a major role for the team in continental competition.
“I can’t control the rumors. All I can do is work,” he said. “It takes time to get used to a new club and I’m certain I can play in the Euroleague.”