With a place in the Euroleague Top 16 all but wrapped up, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts
Lokomotiv Kuban at Nokia Arena on Thursday night in a showdown which will likely
decide first place in Group D.
Kuban (6-1) currently holds a one-game
lead over Maccabi (5-2) with three regular season games to play, with
Lokomotiv’s only defeat (73-58) coming against the yellow-and-blue in Russia
Kuban has won four consecutive continental contests since,
including a 31-point thrashing of Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (84-53) in Lithuania
However, a Maccabi win on Thursday will see it leapfrog the
Russians into first place and leave Tel Aviv with its fate in its own
“This may be the game which decides first place in the group,”
said Maccabi coach David Blatt.
“This is a critical game for
We aren’t completely healthy but we are ready.”
Monday’s 87-85 defeat at Hapoel Jerusalem, Sofoklis Schortsanitis is expected to
play on Thursday. However, captain Shawn James is still a doubt with a back
“We haven’t been entirely healthy since the start of the season,”
Blatt added. “We have entered many games with injured players and that has
effected our play. But when everyone will be healthy you will see a stronger and
more consistent team in both leagues.”
Blatt didn’t sound too concerned
that the defeat to Jerusalem, which was Maccabi’s fourth in just nine BSL games
this season, would have any lasting effect.
“Our form in the league
hasn’t had any effect on our play in the Euroleague so far,” said the coach. “We
have been excellent in our Euroleague campaign until now while in the Israeli
league we have been very inconsistent.”
Kuban may have managed just 58
points in its first clash with Maccabi this season, but it has averaged 79.1
points in its other six games, led by Derrick Brown (15.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and
former Tel Aviv forward Richard Hendrix (12.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg).
first meeting Maccabi handled us pretty well,” said Hendrix. “They will be
playing on the back of a loss in local action just like before our game in
Krasnodar so we should prepare for a motivated team.
“But if we maintain
the level of play we demonstrated in recent games we are definitely able to beat
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders