David Blatt still believes Maccabi Tel Aviv can progress to the Euroleague quarterfinals despite falling to an 88-67 humbling at the hands of Khimki Moscow on Friday for its third defeat in four Top 16 games.
Maccabi got off to a promising start in the Russian capital, leading 25-19 after the first period. However, a 16-0 run in the second quarter gave Khimki a doubledigit margin (40-29) and the hosts dominated the remainder of the game to maintain their perfect home record.
Lior Eliyahu and Shawn James scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, for Maccabi, which yet again shot 5 of 18 from three-point range, exactly as it did in two of its previous four continental losses this season.
Coach Blatt had no excuse for his team’s performance upon its return to Israel on Saturday, but he remained upbeat regarding its chances of finishing in the top four in Group F and advancing to the quarterfinal playoffs.
“I believe we can qualify,” said Blatt. “We lost a tough battle, but the war isn’t over yet and we will not give up. We will continue to work hard and believe that we can advance despite all our problems.”
“We clearly didn’t play well and we paid the price for that,” added Blatt.
“We didn’t expect to lose like this. You work hard in the hope of winning every game you play during the season and even in the ones you lose you hope to lose the right way. However, sometimes you are nowhere near the level you need to be at to compete and that is what happened to us against Khimki.”
Maccabi’s poor run combined with other results leave the yellow-and-blue in an awkward position in Group F, even having played just four of 14 games in the Top 16.
Tel Aviv already finds itself two games out of a place in the top four, with Montepaschi Siena (4-0), Caja Laboral Vitoria (4-0), Barcelona (3-1) and Khimki (3-1) all opening the Top 16 in impressive fashion.
With 10 games still to play, Maccabi has got plenty of time to make up lost ground, but it will have to record a vast and swift improvement on recent performances, starting with Thursday’s game against defending European champion Olympiacos (1-3) at Nokia Arena.
Tel Aviv will hope to lift its spirits slightly when it visits Maccabi Rishon Lezion in BSL action on Monday, looking to avenge its only league defeat of the season to date.
On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Eilat in a showdown between the third and second placed teams in the league.
Also Sunday, Hapoel Jerusalem welcomes Barak Netanya, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil visits Hapoel Holon and Ironi Ashkelon faces Hapoel Tel Aviv. Bnei Herzliya hosts Maccabi Ashdod on Monday.