(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After claiming an impressive victory over Barcelona last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Guy Goodes has challenged his team to notch its first road win in the Euroleague Top 16 when it visits Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania on Friday night.
Maccabi almost squandered a fourth-quarter double-digit lead before eking out a 70-68 win over Barcelona to finally prove that it has what it takes to overcome Europe’s best teams this season.
Maccabi improved to 2-1 in Group E, but after dropping to a disappointing defeat to Panathinaikos in Athens in its group opener, Goodes is hoping his team can finally get off the mark on the road as he believes that will be crucial to Tel Aviv’s chances of advancing to the quarterfinals.
“We are in good shape and we need to build on it,” Goodes said on Thursday. “The games are tough both home and away, but we need to start winning on the road if we want to finish among the top four."
“Zalgiris is a good team, especially at home. We will have to be focused on defense the way we were against Barcelona and run on offense because they like to play at a slow tempo.”
Zalgiris has a 1-2 record, losing on the road to Galatasaray and Panathinaikos, while beating Alba Berlin in Lithuania.
Kaunas’s undoubted star is James Anderson, who is averaging 15.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Euroleague. Devin Smith will likely shoulder much of the responsibility to try and slow him down, with the Zalgiris forward coming off a disappointing showing against Panathinaikos in which he scored just five points on 2-of-13 from the field.
“Anderson is one of their most significant players, especially at home,” said Goodes, with the sharp-shooter averaging 20.0 points in six games at the Zalgirio Arena.
“Their offense revolves around him and we will have to find a way to stop him.
“Zalgiris is a team which has size and plays in a typical Lithuanian style, penetrating and throwing the ball out for three-pointers. We will have to be at our best to win. A mediocre performance won’t do.”
Goodes received some good news when Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Devin Smith both overcame injuries to take part in practice on Thursday, with the coach also hoping to see Jeremy Pargo build on his recent sensational form.
Pargo had scored in double figures in only two of eight Euroleague games prior to the clash with Barcelona, which he finished with 20 points and seven assists before netting 34 points, including six-of-eight from three-point range, in Sunday’s BSL win over Hapoel Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, former Maccabi coach Tzvika Sherf was unveiled as Maccabi Ashdod’s new head coach on Thursday.
The veteran was brought in to replace Lior Lubin in the hope that he can emulate his accomplishment at Maccabi Rishon Lezion last season, when he saved the team from relegation even though it won just six of 18 games under his guidance.
Sherf’s contract at Rishon wasn’t extended, but he will have another opportunity to prove his worth at Ashdod, which sits in last place in the BSL with a 3-13 record.