Maccabi Tel Aviv bounced back from its shock setback against Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in resounding fashion on Saturday night, moving into a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five BSL quarterfinal series with a 93-67 victory at Nokia Arena.
Gilboa stunned Maccabi 75-71 last Wednesday to level the series and disrupt the yellow-and-blue’s preparations for the Euroleague Final Four. Maccabi coach David Blatt was hoping his team would complete a sweep over Gilboa on Saturday, giving it the entire week to get ready for Friday’s Final Final semifinal against CSKA Moscow in Milano.
However, Maccabi had to change its plans and ensure it didn’t lose focus in the BSL playoffs following the surprise loss in Gan Ner. Tel Aviv rebounded with an impressive showing on Saturday and will be confident of wrapping up the series and turning its sights fully to the Final Four when it goes to Gan Ner on Monday.
“As hard as you may try not to look forward, your thoughts drift to the Final Four,” admitted Maccabi coach David Blatt.
“There is an effect which cannot be denied. However, we mustn’t allow it to happen again as we face another tough game on Monday. We need to focus only on that game. As coaches we don’t have that privilege and need to prepare for CSKA as well, but the players must think only of the Gilboa game.”
Gilboa began Saturday’s game brimming with confidence following its win in Game 2, opening an early 10-5 lead thanks to Gerald Robinson’s basket. However, a 14-2 run saw Maccabi move into the driving seat (25-15) and take a seven-point cushion (27-20) into the second quarter.
The yellow-and-blue steamrolled Gilboa in the second period, outscoring its opponent 29-13 to open an unassailable 23-point margin (56-33) at the break.
Ricky Hickman scored 23 points for Maccabi, with Guy Pnini and David Blu adding 14 points each. Kenny Boynton led Gilboa with 14 points.
“Gilboa played really well in Game 2 and we didn’t, but tonight we scored shots which we missed in Gan Ner and played superbly,” said Blatt.
Gilboa coach Sharon Drucker was hopeful his team will find the energy to fight back on Monday.
“We were lethargic and Maccabi played like men obsessed,” said Drucker. “We had to chase them throughout the game and in the end gave our players some rest ahead of Monday. I told the players that this is only one loss and we can bounce back. Maccabi was much better but there is at least one more game to play.”