Mac TA’s playoff hopes continue to slip away

Fenerbahce deals yellow-and-blue 14-point Euroleague defeat in Istanbul ahead of Panathinaikos visit

March 21, 2018 03:39
2 minute read.
Maccab i Tel Aviv forward DeAndre Kane (7) is stripped of the ball by Fenerbahce’s Muhammed Ali

Maccab i Tel Aviv forward DeAndre Kane (7) is stripped of the ball by Fenerbahce’s Muhammed Ali (right) during last night’s 87-73 Euroleague loss by the yellow-andblue in Istanbul.. (photo credit: GOKHAN KILINCER)

Maccabi Tel Aviv lost further ground in the battle for a Euroleague playoff berth on Tuesday night, suffering an 87-73 defeat at reigning champion Fenerbahce in Istanbul to fall to a losing record in the competition for the first time this season.

Beating Fenerbahce on the road would have likely been beyond Maccabi at the best of times, not to mention on the back of a heartbreaking Euroleague home defeat to Khimki Moscow last Thursday and a dejecting BSL loss at Hapoel Holon two days later.

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But while the yellow-and-blue still has plenty of time to right the ship in local league play, it needs to find its form in the Euroleague as soon as possible, with its fate in the competition very likely to be decided by next Thursday night.

Maccabi got off to an encouraging start on Tuesday, leading by as many as eight points (26-18) early in the second quarter. But Zeljko Obradovic’s team would respond with a 10-0 run and was in complete control at the break, outscoring Tel Aviv 27-10 to end the half (45-36).

A nine-point deficit at the interval is hardly unassailable, but Maccabi never looked like a team that believes it has any chance of leaving with a win and the outcome was effectively decided when the hosts established an 18-point cushion (74- 56) ahead of the final 10 minutes.

Pierre Jackson had 13 points for Maccabi, which suffered its fourth defeat in its past five continental games. The yellowand- blue dropped to an eighth loss from its last 10 road contests, with its defeats coming by a humbling average of 16.9 points per game.

Deshaun Thomas and Jonah Bolden added 12 points each, with Marko Guduric scoring 23 points for Fenerbahce, which improved to 19-8.

Maccabi dropped to a 13-14 record and could find itself one game back of Baskonia Vitoria in eighth place should the Spaniards defeat Brose Bamberg on Wednesday.

Tel Aviv will already be back in action on Thursday when it welcomes Panathinaikos in its final home game of the regular season.

Baskonia visits Barcelona on Friday and hosts Maccabi next Thursday in what is shaping up to be the decisive showdown in the battle for the eighth and final ticket to the quarterfinals and the questionable honor of facing powerhouse CSKA Moscow, assuming it clinches the No. 1 seed as expected, in a best-of-five series.

However, a win in Spain won’t be good enough for Maccabi if it is more than one game behind its rival, which is possible following Tuesday’s loss in Turkey.

Maccabi will complete the regular season when it visits Valencia on April 6, while Vitoria hosts Efes Istanbul in its final game a day earlier.

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