Despite Friday’s comprehensive defeat to Olimpia Milano, Maccabi Tel Aviv arrived back home on Saturday optimistic of returning to the Italian fashion capital next month for the Euroleague Final Four.
Maccabi hosts Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-five quarterfinal series at Nokia Arena on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, knowing two wins over three days will secure its progress to European basketball’s showcase event for the first time since 2011.
A decisive Game 5 will take place in Milan on Friday if necessary.
The yellow-and-blue claimed a remarkable 101-99 victory in overtime in Game 1 last Wednesday, erasing a 12-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation.
However, Maccabi trailed from start to finish in the second game on Friday on the way to a 91-77 defeat.
A 9-0 run late in the first quarter gave Milano a 25-15 lead at the Mediolanum Forum, which will also host the Final Four in mid- May. The hosts remained in control until the final buzzer, taking a 13-point cushion into halftime (47-34) and leading by no fewer than nine points throughout the second half and by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Curtis Jerrells led six Milano players in double figures with 17 points, scoring 12 of them in the second half, with Kristjan Kangur and David Moss netting 13 points apiece.
“I was sure that this team would react in the right way,” said Jerrells. “This was a great game, with great intensity and teamwork. Now we’ll go to Tel Aviv with all our confidence back.”
Alex Tyus had 16 points for Maccabi, which lost Sofoklis Schortsanitis to a knee injury in the first quarter. Sofo is expected to be fit to play in Game 3. David Blu added 12 points, with Tyrese Rice scoring 10 after his sublime performance in Game 1. Ricky Hickman was held to nine points following his 26-point showing in the series opener.
“Milan played a good game and deserved to win,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt.
“Obviously the injury to Schortsanitis changed how we play, but we could have done better in a lot of other things. We can say two things for sure after the first two games: Milan has been a better team, and we are leaving with a road win which is exactly how we wanted to leave beautiful Italy. Every game is different and with different dynamics, and now we’ll go back home and we’ll work on our game to be better in the next one.”