Sofoklis Schortsantis of Maccabi Tel Aviv goes up for a shot.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
The last time a team managed to come back from losing Game 1 of the Euroleague quarterfinals to reach the Final Four was four years ago.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to reverse that trend if it is to return to European basketball’s showcase event after losing the best-of-five series opener at Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul on Tuesday.
The yellow-and-blue led throughout the first half and by as many as 11 points (54-43) midway through the third quarter. However, the defending champion lost its way after that and Fenerbahce went on a 29-9 run to move into a 1-0 lead.
Since the Euroleague quarterfinals became a best-of-five affair in the 2008/09 season, no team has ever pulled off the comeback from a 0-2 deficit, lending additional importance to Game 2 in Istanbul on Thursday.
Maccabi hosts Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) next week on April 20 and 22, with a decisive Game 5 to be held in Turkey on April 28, should it be required.
Despite the dejecting defeat in the series opener, Maccabi can at least draw encouragement from controlling the first 25 minutes of the contest.
Coach Guy Goodes will also remember how Maccabi won three games in a row in the quarterfinal series against Vitoria four years ago, while he was an assistant at the club, after losing Game 1 in Spain.
“We played a pretty perfect first half, but the game is 40 minutes and not 25,” said Goodes.
“In the critical moments, we fell apart and that happened against their second unit with Zoric and Preldzic. We committed a couple of critical turnovers and they took the lead after that. There’s no doubt that this is a long series and we’ll need to use everyone in the coming games.”
In his post-game talk with the players Goodes put special emphasis on the team’s 14 turnovers and the fact Maccabi allowed Fenerbahce to grab 17 offensive rebounds.
“We have learned from Game 1 and are moving on,” added Goodes. “We missed an opportunity, but this is only the beginning of the series.”
Goodes will hope Jeremy Pargo can repeat his performance from Tuesday when he finished with 25 points and eight rebounds, while crossing his fingers that star forward Devin Smith can rebound from his disappointing showing.
Maccabi will also require more significant contributions from the likes of Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Brian Randle.
“There is no doubt that we missed an opportunity, but we hope the series will go five games,” said guard Yogev Ohayon.
“We’ll enter Game 2 with a different mentality and we’ll play well for four quarters.”
Jan Vesely led Fenerbahce with 23 points and seven boards in Game 1, making up for mediocre showings by stars Andrew Goudelock and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who combined for just 13 points on 5-of- 17 from the field.
“The game developed the way I expected. It was a tough game,” said Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic. “Pargo played like a leader and he was a big problem for us. We played much better in the second half as we had more patience on offense. I’m happy that we won, but it’s only 1-0 and we must be very focused in the second game because Maccabi played excellent.”