After claiming four straight wins to vault back into contention for a place in
the Euroleague quarterfinals, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Olympiacos in Athens on
Friday night in what is arguably its toughest game of the season to
Maccabi’s dramatic 80-79 win over Khimki Moscow last week saw it
improve to a 6-5 record in Group F and the battle for a top four finish and a
place in the quarterfinals remains completely wide open with three more games to
play in the Top 16.
Maccabi is currently tied with Khimki and Caja
Laboral Vitoria, while Olympiacos and Montepaschi Siena are one game ahead at
Tel Aviv faces Olympiacos, the reigning Euroleague champion, on
Friday before hosting rockbottom Besiktas (0-11) and ending its group games with
a visit to first-placed Barcelona (10-1).
Three wins to end the Top 16
will see Maccabi progress regardless of other results.
However, two wins
from its remaining three games could also be enough for Tel Aviv should other
results go its way.
Maccabi lost to Olympiacos when the teams first met
this season at Nokia, but as the yellowand- blue only fell by a single point in
Israel (78-77), Tel Aviv will claim the tiebreaker and overtake the Greeks
assuming it wins by more than one point in Athens.
Tel Aviv, which
already has a better head-to-head record against Siena and Caja but not versus
Khimki, will then host Besiktas in a game it should comfortably claim before
The Catalans will have likely already wrapped up first
place in the group by the time Maccabi comes to town, which should at least
ensure the yellow-and-blue has an edge over Barca when it comes to
However, Tel Aviv’s fate will only be in its hands in
Barcelona should it win its next two contests, starting with Friday’s game at
“This game is critical to us,” said Maccabi coach David
Blatt, who deserves much of the credit for lifting his roster after a 2-5 start
to the Top 16. “These are the type of games you look forward
Olympiacos has also been in excellent form in recent weeks, winning
six of its past seven continental games.
Playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis
remains the most dangerous player on Georgios Bartzokas’s roster, averaging 16.0
points and 5.9 assists this season, while Georgios Printezis has lifted his play
in the Top 16, registering 10.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
have reached the point where we once more must win a tough road game,” said
Maccabi’s Guy Pnini.
“This time we are playing the European champion. We
will display the same energy we have shown in recent weeks because there is no
way back from this game. We can’t take our foot off the gas.”