Maccabi Tel Aviv will be aiming to avoid an upset when it hosts Alba Berlin at
Nokia Arena on Thursday night, with a victory to ensure it advances to the
Euroleague Top 16 as the winner of Group B.
A win against the Germans
will see the yellow-and-blue end the regular season with an 8-2 record and
finish ahead of Unicaja Malaga on a tiebreaker even should the Spaniards beat
Maccabi required a fourth-quarter surge to remain top of
its group last week, beating Prokom Gdynia by 16 points (89-73), but only after
outscoring the hosts 29-8 in the final frame.
After opening their
campaign with five straight wins, David Blatt’s men have not had it all their
own way in the second half of the regular season.
Defeats to Malaga and
Montepaschi Siena were followed by a tighter-than-expected home win over Chalon
before last week’s scare in Poland.
Blatt will be hoping things are far
more straightforward on Thursday, with the Top 16 already getting underway in
The yellow-and-blue made the most of a relatively weak regular
season group, but matters will be exceedingly more difficult in the next round,
especially if Tel Aviv fails to significantly improve on its play from recent
The Top 16 has a new format this season, with the teams to be
split into two groups of eight and the best four from each group to progress to
the playoffs after a 14-game round robin, which begins on December 27 and runs
until April 5.
As a result, even should Maccabi win its regular season
group, it is set to face another group winner, likely Spanish powerhouse
Barcelona, as well as the strong second placed teams from Groups A and
First things first, however, with Maccabi needing to avoid a slip-up
against Alba at home to ensure it ends the regular season on a
“This is the time of the season where the players get tired and
hurt,” said Alba coach Sasa Obradovic. “Now that we have Deon Thompson and Heiko
Schaffartzik back in the team, we miss Vule Avdalovic. Having lost one of our
leading players, some roles in the team will change a little and we will have to
find a new chemistry.”
With Guy Pnini suspended indefinitely after being
caught calling Hapoel Tel Aviv player Jonathan Skjoldebrand a Nazi during last
week’s derby, new swingman Sylven Landesberg has got a golden opportunity to
carve out a greater role for himself in the rotation.
joined Tel Aviv from Maccabi Haifa, has only netted a total of 12 points in the
Euroleague so far, averaging just over six minutes per game and failing to even
score a point in seven of the team’s continental contests.
recorded seasonhighs in points (14) and minutes (23) in Maccabi’s most recent
BSL win at Barak Netanya and will be hoping to carry the momentum into
“It feels good to be back playing and I’ll try to
continue to improve and earn the coach’s trust,” Landesberg said. “We are
looking forward to winning on Thursday and clinching first place.”