Blatt’s Darussafaka pays visit to plummeting Mac TA

Tel Aviv is still only two games back of Red Star Belgrade in eighth place – which leads to a playoff berth – and has 15 more games to make amends for its disastrous first half.

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January 5, 2017 00:57
2 minute read.
Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Victor Rudd scored a team-high 21 points in last night’s 83-81 win over Macca

Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Victor Rudd scored a team-high 21 points in last night’s 83-81 win over Maccabi Haifa at Romema Arena.. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

 
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Despite calling out his players as cheaters and claiming some of them only care about their statistics, new Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Ainars Bagatskis believes it is not too late for the yellow-and-blue to resurrect its Euroleague campaign.

Maccabi begins the second half of its Euroleague regular season campaign when it hosts Darussafaka at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night, aiming to snap a club record six-game losing streak in the competition and revive its hopes of making the playoffs.

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Maccabi fell to a 5-10 record and dropped to 14th place out of 16 teams following last week’s 101-88 loss at Baskonia Vitoria.

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv is still only two games back of Red Star Belgrade in eighth place – which leads to a playoff berth – and has 15 more games to make amends for its disastrous first half. It will have to display a dramatic improvement to do so though, with Bagatskis losing patience with his new players after just one week at the helm.

“Some of our players came to this arena like they were on a vacation,” said Maccabi’s furious coach following Monday’s tight 75-73 win over Ironi Ness Ziona of the second division in the State Cup quarterfinals. “Some of the players just look at their statistics, cheating and don’t do what they are supposed to do - play basketball and enjoy the game.

“We played soft and everybody saw that. If we have self-respect we will have to change something for our next game,” he added. “With the quality we showed today we don’t have any chance in the Euroleague.”

Bagatskis does, however, still believe that the current roster has the potential to turn things around.

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“If we bring the aggressiveness we showed in the last two practices to the game we can beat anyone,” he said.

“If we play like in the last 26 minutes here we should retire from basketball.”

Bagatskis won’t need any help scouting Darussafaka, as he served as David Blatt’s assistant at the Turkish team until two weeks ago.

Maccabi and Darussafaka are meeting for the second time in two weeks, with Tel Aviv squandering a 19-point lead in Istanbul before falling to an 86-84 loss to the Turks, who own an 8-7 record following last week’s 81-77 defeat at Barcelona.

“Obviously, Tel Aviv is a tough place to play. But it’s also a great atmosphere for basketball,” said Blatt, who returns to Yad Eliyahu for a competitive game for the first time since leaving Maccabi in the summer of 2014.

“Maccabi has gone through different changes, but a very talented roster makes them a team that can potentially, on any night and any game, compete for wins as we have seen this season. We have been playing good basketball and must continue to focus on playing the game right, being competitive and always striving for the win.”

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