Maccabi gets Partizan Belgrade in quarters

By
March 14, 2010 06:06

Emotional 66-64 road triumph over Madrid boosts yellow-and-blue’s chances.

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Maccabi gets Partizan Belgrade in quarters

maccabi tel aviv 298.88. (photo credit: EPA)

Partizan finished second in Group E with a 3-3 record after losing 82-64 to Barcelona on Thursday. The Serbs have been one of the surprises of the Euroleague this season, but Gershon knows his team has now got an opportunity it really should not squander.

“We’ve got a good chance against Partizan,” he said. “We respect them. They beat Panathinaikos and Barcelona so it’s not going to be easy, but we’ve got a real chance.”It was exactly two months ago that Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Pini Gershon all but conceded his team has no chance of reaching the Euroleague quarterfinals.

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Maccabi had just fallen to an 83-75 defeat at Maroussi BC in its final regular season game and Gershon bemoaned his poor roster, claiming he didn’t have the players needed to succeed. The three-time Euroleague-winning coach spoke from his heart and declared that his team would likely not make the Final Four and that drastic improvements would be necessary just for the team to reach the quarterfinal playoffs.

What a difference two months can make.

After Thursday’s dramatic 66-64 victory at Real Madrid, which guaranteed Maccabi home-court advantage in a best-of-five quarterfinal series against Partizan Belgrade, an emotional Gershon could not speak highly enough of his team and admitted it had a very good chance of reaching the Final Four in Paris.

“I’ve had some pretty big wins in my career, but none is bigger than this,” he said. “I hope that everyone realizes that the hard work we’ve put in until now needs to continue in order to reach the Final Four, because that is a goal that is still greater than our potential.”

Maccabi, which was welcomed back to Israel on Friday by dozens of jubilant fans, trailed for much of Thursday’s encounter, but despite scoring just 21 points in the first half, was down by only 10 points at the break.

Madrid still seemed to be holding a comfortable enough lead at 45-36 with just 10 minutes remaining. However, Tel Aviv ate away at the gap as the final frame progressed and a Chuck Eidson three-pointer with just over a minute on the clock gave the team its first lead of the night (62-61) and Maccabi held on for a instant-classic of a victory.

“It was a very emotional game against a very tough team,” Eidson said. “We completed a great comeback and that allowed the team spirit to go up. The key was that we realized how big this game was in the fourth quarter. Our defense was good and we managed to hit some key shots that allowed us to win.”

D’or Fischer and David Bluthenthal scored 13 points each for Tel Aviv, with Eidson and Stephane Lasme both adding 11 points.

“We now have to go to Belgrade to play in a very tough court, but it will be a thrilling series,” Eidson said. “We play basketball to take part in games like this.”

Maccabi hosts Partizan on March 23 and 25, before going to Belgrade for Game 3 on March 30. If Game 4 is needed it will be played two days later, with the fifth and decisive game to take place in Tel Aviv on April 7.

Partizan finished second in Group E with a 3-3 record after losing 82-64 to Barcelona on Thursday. The Serbs have been one of the surprises of the Euroleague this season, but Gershon knows his team has now got an opportunity it really should not squander.

“We’ve got a good chance against Partizan,” he said. “We respect them. They beat Panathinaikos and Barcelona so it’s not going to be easy, but we’ve got a real chance.”


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