Chance to make hay for Maccabi Tel Aviv

With return of stars, yellow-and-blue visits Kazan eyeing second Euroleague win of week.

November 16, 2016 20:44
2 minute read.
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Devin Smith

Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Devin Smith. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

On the back of its most impressive win of the season to date, and with Andrew Goudelock and Sylven Landesberg both expected to return to action, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Unics Kazan on Thursday evening aiming to finally build some momentum in the Euroleague.

Maccabi improved to a 3-4 record with Tuesday night’s 87-77 victory over Fenerbahce, leading by as many as 20 points (85-65) before allowing the Turks to limit the damage in the final two-and-a-half minutes.

With Goudelock a late scratch due to a minor ankle sprain and Landesberg missing his fifth straight Euroleague game due to a more serious ankle injury, Maccabi coach Rami Hadar used just an eight-man rotation on Tuesday.

Sonny Weems, Devin Smith and Victor Rudd each played 35 minutes, while Israeli guard Yogev Ohayon was the X-factor, playing a season-high 30 minutes and equaling his career-high in Euroleague play with 19 points.

“I think today is the first time this season that the spirit of Maccabi came out,” said Hadar. “We played tough defense that created us a lot of open court opportunities, which we used well, better than we have until now.

I think that was the key for the win.”

Despite the big win over last season’s runner-up and legendary coach Zeljko Obradovic, Hadar knows his team has realized only a small part of its potential.

“We are still in the middle of a process as a team and we’ll continue that process,” explained Hadar. “As great as this win is, it doesn’t give us a single point against Kazan on Thursday.”

Kazan fell to 2-5 with Tuesday’s 104- 99 defeat at Efes Istanbul after winning its previous two games. Kazan is paced by former Maccabi guard Keith Langford, who leads the Euroleague with 24.6 points per game, scoring at least 22 points in the team’s past six contests.

One of the players who will be assigned with trying to slow down Langford will be his former teammate Guy Pnini, who is hoping the victory over Fenerbahce can finally kick-start the yellow-and-blue’s season.

“The energy at Yad Eliyahu had been strange in recent games so I’m happy we finally lifted the crowd,” said Pnini. “We ran, we had fun and we smiled. That is what a winning team does. We played superbly, but we need to build on this on Thursday.

“I believe in this team.”

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