Any way you look at it, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s hopes of reaching the Euroleague
quarterfinals will be as good as over should it fail to beat Fenerbahce Ulker in
Top 16 Group F at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
Maccabi dropped to an
agonizing 71-70 home defeat to Caja Laboral Vitoria last week, falling to
The Top 16’s new 14-game format means Tel Aviv still has plenty of
time to make up lost ground.
However, a second straight defeat in Tel
Aviv to a Fenerbahce team which has also opened the Top 16 with two consecutive
losses would realistically end the yellowand- blue’s hopes considering it has
yet to face the group’s big names – Barcelona, Olympiacos and Khimki
“If there is such a thing as a do-or-die game than this is it,”
said Maccabi coach David Blatt after his side returned to winning ways with a
BSL victory against Hapoel Jerusalem at Malha Arena on Sunday.
a lot of maturity by bouncing back from the defeat to Caja. We may be lacking in
certain departments, but with guys like we have you can go to
Despite having one of the more star-studded rosters in Europe,
Fenerbahce only managed a 5-5 record in the regular season and suffered a 98-92
home defeat to Montepaschi Siena last week after being thrashed 100-78 at
Barcelona in its Top 16 opener.
Bo McCalebb (11.8 PPG) and Bojan
Bogdanovic (13.2 PPG) are Fener’s clear top two options, but Maccabi will also
be keeping a close eye on Emir Preldzic (9.4 PPG) and Romain Sato (9.1 PPG),
with veterans Mike Batiste (6.3 PPG) and David Andersen (6.8 PPG) giving the
Ulker roster vast experience in playing at Nokia Arena.
“We are playing
against one of the top teams in the Euroleague who are in the same situation as
us,” said Fener coach Simone Pianigiani, whose team was beaten 94-76 by Anadolu
Efes in Turkish league action on Monday.
“At home Maccabi always presents
something special. I don’t know how many years it has been since they lost two
games in a row. It will be a mentally difficult game. We lost our confidence in
the last two games. We have to keep our heads high and try to stay in the game
and play until the end.”
Maccabi is just 2-2 in its past four Euroleague
home games, with all four of its continental defeats to date strongly linked to
its accuracy from three-point range.
Tel Aviv hit less than 28 percent of
its attempts from beyond the arc with no more than five successful shots in each
of its losses and will be eyeing a significant improvement in that department on
Thursday, especially from Devin Smith.
The American swingman has gone
0-for-9 thus far in the Top 16 after making 43.2% of his threes during the
“We have got to win this game,” Smith said. “The win over
Jerusalem was important to us because we wanted to get the week off on the right
The fact we beat Hapoel through our defense and rebounding was
important as those will be two of the keys for a win on Thursday as well.”