Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Brian Randle (left) will face a tough matchup tonight at Yad Eliyahu Arena against Hapoel Eilat’s Elishay Kadir (right) in the decisive Game 5 of their teams’ BSL semifinal series..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Exactly one week ago, Maccabi Tel Aviv was busy arguing with the BSL regarding the schedule of the home-andaway final.
The BSL had announced that should both semifinals end in sweeps, the final will be brought forward by five days.
With star forward Devin Smith out injured with a thigh injury, Maccabi objected to the change and demanded that the final take place on June 22 and 25 as originally planned.
Both Maccabi and Hapoel Jerusalem held 2-0 leads in the semis at the time and the yellow-andblue clearly had no doubt it would complete the job in Game 3.
However, seven days later, Maccabi finds itself staring unthinkable elimination in the face as it hosts Eilat in a decisive Game 5 at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Wednesday night for a chance to play Jerusalem – which completed its sweep of Maccabi Rishon Lezion – in a two-game aggregate final.
Eilat registered a surprising 104-98 overtime victory in Game 3 in Tel Aviv last Wednesday and Sunday’s impressive 92-79 home win tied the bestof- five series at 2-2, sending it to a decider.
Eilat is shooting to become just the second team in Israeli basketball history to erase a 0-2 deficit in the playoffs. Maccabi Rishon Lezion was the first and only team to do so to date in 2012.
Maccabi enters Wednesday’s showdown on the back of its first-ever playoff losing streak, with the yellow-and-blue not even dropping to two defeats in a row in its one and only loss in a series to Hapoel Galil Elyon in 1992/93.
The playoff format was introduced to Israeli basketball in the 1982/83 season.
Maccabi has dropped the league title in three of the past seven years, but all those defeats came in a one-game, winner-take-all final.
Maccabi had won 23 consecutive championships before its 3-2 defeat to Galil Elyon 22 years ago and has at least reached the final in every season since.
This illustrious history is lost on most of Maccabi’s current players, who at times have played like they would rather already be on a plane departing from Ben-Gurion Airport.
Yogev Ohayon and the injured Guy Pnini are the only senior players on the current roster who call Israel home.
Eilat was ahead by as many as 19 points in the third quarter of Game 4 before Maccabi cut the deficit to six points, only to capitulate in the final two minutes.
“We must be a lot more aggressive and determined in Game 5,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes.
“The injuries have hurt our chemistry and have forced us to make changes, which isn’t easy. At the end of the day, we need to show we want this more than Eilat in order to win and progress.”
To his credit, Eilat coach Arik Shivek always insisted that his team can give Maccabi a run for its money, and he certainly still believes that ahead of Game 5.
“We have already achieved something historic and we hope to raise the bar in Game 5,” said Shivek, who replaced Dan Shamir in mid-February when the team was sitting in seventh place in the standings with a 9-10 record.
“It is not only a question of confidence, but also of self-belief.
That is all you need and we have that.”