After suffering four straight dejecting defeats across all competitions – a pair apiece in the BSL and Euroleague – Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to first and foremost steady the ship when it visits Bayern Munich in Euroleague Top 16 action in Germany on Thursday night.
Maccabi has fallen a game behind BSL league-leader Hapoel Jerusalem after being crushed by its bitter rival by 28 points last week before losing at the buzzer at Maccabi Haifa on Monday night.
The yellow-and-blue has also dropped to two tight defeats in its most recent Euroleague contests, suffering a surprise setback at Partizan Belgrade two weeks ago before battling Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid for 40 minutes last week, only to fall to a 77-76 loss and a 7-5 record.
Maccabi will effectively clinch third place in Group F and book its place in the quarterfinal playoffs with a win over Munich.
However, even should it lose in its final two Top 16 games at Munich and against CSKA Moscow in Tel Aviv next week, it seems set to end the group in third position.
Assuming Real Madrid (10-2) beats Lokomotiv Kuban (6-6) on Friday as expected and CSKA (10-2) doesn’t suffer a shock loss to Galatasaray (6-6) in Russia, Maccabi is guaranteed to end the group in third place as long as Galatasaray claims what seems to be a likely home win over Belgrade (3-9) next week, with the Serbs triumphing in just one road game all season.
However, even though its place in the last eight looks to be set, Maccabi is desperate for a victory on Thursday to try and rebuild its confidence ahead of the business end of the season.
“We are going through a poor period,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “We lost three games by a combined five points. We could have won them just the same, but we didn’t and this hurts.
“However, we will not give up and we are not panicking. We recognize the situation we are in and we know how to deal with it. We need to stick to our way and system and do so quietly and consistently. Even if it takes us a little longer to break out of this slump, we will not waiver and will find the way to achieve our goals.”
Bayern (5-7) will be out of playoff contention should it lose on Thursday, and despite falling in its past two Euroleague games, the Germans will be confident of beating Maccabi after defeating Madrid in their most recent home encounter and only losing at the buzzer in Tel Aviv two months ago.
Maccabi beat Munich 66-64 at Nokia Arena, with Bayern’s Robin Benzing missing a chance to send the game to overtime as time expired.
After scoring between 85 and 90 points on the way to four consecutive convincing victories to start the Top 16, Maccabi has netted more than 80 points only once in eight continental contests since, losing in five of those encounters.
Guard Yogev Ohayon is one of the players who has struggled over recent months, failing to regain top form in the team’s past three contests after missing two games with an eye injury.
Nevertheless, he remains optimistic ahead of Thursday’s clash.
“We want to improve our situation as quickly as possible,” Ohayon said. “Everyone is staying positive and working hard.
We need to place more emphasis on the small things, especially in those close games that end with a one or two-point difference.
”We’re Maccabi, one of the top teams in Europe, and we need to represent our club accordingly.”