The blows just keep coming for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
After being crushed 100-65 at CSKA Moscow without the injured Devin Smith and Alex Tyus – not to mention center Shawn James who is likely out for the season – Maccabi coach David Blatt was hoping to finally have an almost full roster at his disposal for the game versus Hapoel Jerusalem on Monday.
Tel Aviv thrashed Jerusalem 93-71 behind 29 points from Smith to leapfrog into first place in the BSL standings, but it had to do so without Tyus, who missed a third straight game with an ankle complaint, and lost yet another key player to injury after Yogev Ohayon was poked in his right eye in the first minute of the contest.
Ohayon suffered retinal damage and will not be able to face Galatasaray in Euroleague Top 16 action at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
“I can’t remember a season with so many injuries, certainly not in my time here,” said Blatt.
“However, we are coping with it the best way possible and that says a lot about our team. I hope this will stop soon because we are nearing the business end of the season.”
At least Tyus is expected to suit up on Thursday, bolstering Blatt’s options under the baskets, with new Croatian center Andrija Zizic also set to make his Euroleague debut for the club.
Despite having just one fit center in Sofoklis Schortsanitis last week, Maccabi remained in touch with CSKA in the first half, only to completely capitulate after the break, dropping to its heaviest defeat in Europe since 1976 after allowing 18 unanswered points to end the game.
With Tyus back and Zizic finally available, and with Galatasaray having far fewer weapons than CSKA, Tel Aviv looks to be well equipped in the paint.
Ohayon’s absence will place more responsibility on Tyrese Rice, with Ricky Hickman and Smith also likely to be called on to help out with defending Galatasaray’s top scorer and former Maccabi guard, Carlos Arroyo (17.9 ppg and 6.1 apg in the Top 16).
Maccabi, which dropped to 5-2 last week, beat Galatasaray (3-4) 90-84 in Istanbul in their Top 16 opener. However, after losing their first three games of the Top 16, the Turks have won three of four contests, including road victories at Bayern Munich and Partizan Belgrade.
Although Galatasaray still trails Maccabi by two games in the battle for third place, a win on Thursday is absolutely essential for the yellow-andblue, not only to keep alive its chances of returning to the top two, but to also close in on a top-four finish and a quarterfinal berth.