|Mac TA's Ricky Hickman 370.(Photo by: Adi Avishai)|
Yellow-and-blue tips off Top 16 at Siena
By ALLON SINAI
Despite suffering loss at Siena on November 23, Maccabi still managed 8-2 Group B record to advance to Euroleague Top 16.
Just one month after losing in Italy, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Montepaschi Siena
once more on Thursday night in a showdown which could set the tone for the
yellow-and-blue’s entire Euroleague Top 16 campaign.
Despite suffering an
89-87 loss at Siena on November 23, Maccabi still managed to advance to the Top
16 from first place in regular season Group B with an 8-2
However, with powerhouse Barcelona, European champion Olympiacos,
the impressive BV Khimki Moscow, Caja Laboral Vitoria of Spain and Turkey’s
Besiktas JK and Fenerbahce Ulker also all being part of Group F, Maccabi will
have little room for error in the Top 16 if it has any intention of finishing in
the top four and progressing to the quarterfinal playoffs.
continental campaign to date has been erratic to say the least.
Tuscans began the regular season with three straight defeats, including a 70-68
loss in Tel Aviv, but bounced back with five consecutive victories before
suffering unexpected setbacks against the weak Chalon-Sur- Saone and Prokom
Gdynia to end the group with a 5-5 record.
Nevertheless, Siena was the
regular season leader in scoring (87.9 PPG), assists (17.9 APG), free throws
made (170), free throw accuracy (79.8%), three-pointers made (129) and
three-point accuracy (43.3%) and Maccabi coach David Blatt is certainly not
taking the Italians lightly.
“It is easier for us to prepare for this
game because we have already played Siena twice this season. There isn’t that
much to do,” said Blatt. “This group is going to be tough and there will be many
ups and downs. The dynamic of the Top 16 has changed with the expansion to 14
games this season. We need to be smart and cautious.”
Siena’s Bobby Brown
leads the Euroleague in scoring (19.5 PPG), but coach Luca Banchi’s team has
plenty of other weapons on offense, scoring at least 88 points in seven of its
last eight Euroleague games.
One of the keys for Maccabi this season has
been its three-point shooting, with the yellow-and-blue hitting 17- of-29
(58.6%) attempts in its past two continental wins.
On the other hand, Tel
Aviv shot just 25 percent (7-of-28) from beyond the arc in its two Euroleague
defeats this season, connecting on only five of 18 three-point shots the last
time it visited Siena.
Maccabi will have a fresh face on its bench on
Thursday, but new signing Darko Palninic, who took the place of Giorgi
Shermadini on the roster, is unlikely to get any significant playing time
One player who will play plenty of minutes is Ricky
Hickman, who leads Maccabi with 27 minutes and 13 points per game, and scored
Tel Aviv’s winning basket in the victory over Siena in Israel.
an especially good team at home,” said Hickman, who is looking forward to what
promises to be a testing Top 16. “We will need to do a very good job to win in
“Every Top 16 game will be a real war, but if we display our full
ability and play with intensity I believe we will be fine. I’m excited ahead of
the Top 16.
I’ve been waiting for the chance to play against the best
teams in Europe and see how good we really are.”
On TV: Montepaschi Siena
vs Maccabi Tel Aviv (live on Channel 10 at 9:45 p.m.)