Maccabi Tel Aviv will be confident of maintaining its grip on first place in
Euroleague Group D on Thursday night when it hosts Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius at
Maccabi climbed back to the top of the group with last
week’s 75-73 win over Lokomotiv Kuban and victories in its final two regular
season games, against Vilnius on Thursday and at Panathinaikos next week, will
see it qualify for the Top 16 as a No. 1 seed regardless of other
Tel Aviv could even clinch first place with one game to spare
should it defeat Vilnius combined with a Red Star Belgrade win versus Laboral
Vitoria and a Panathinaikos triumph over Kuban on Friday.
Maccabi will not want to depend on favors from other teams, meaning it must
first defeat Vilnius on Thursday ahead of next week’s visit to
Maccabi edged Rytas 76-74 in Lithuania last month thanks to a
late floater by former Vilnius guard Tyrese Rice.
Vilnius has lost seven
straight Euroleague contests since stunning Panathinaikos in its regular season
opener, falling by an average 17 points per game when excluding the defeat to
“Lithuanian teams always play hard when it comes to their pride
so this is a game we will have to be ready for,” said Maccabi forward David Blu,
who with 8.5 points per game is only his team’s sixth-highest scorer, with five
yellow-and-blue players averaging double-digits.
“Vilnius may no longer
have a chance to reach the Top 16, but it will be playing in the next round of
the Eurocup and will want to build some momentum.”
In other news, guard
Yuval Naimi, who signed a three-year contract to play for Maccabi during the
summer, left the club on Tuesday, joining Hapoel Eilat.
intended to loan Naimi to another BSL team during the first year of his deal,
but according to the new BSL regulations only players under the age of 26 can be
loaned between teams in the league.
With Maccabi not having any room on
its roster for the 28-year-old and the Israeli guard unwilling to spend an
entire season without playing, the two sides agreed to void the contract,
allowing Naimi to sign with Eilat until the end of the season.
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