Maccabi TA guard Taylor Rochestie.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv discovered how difficult life in the Eurocup can be on Wednesday night, suffering a 92-82 defeat to Unics Kazan at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Maccabi entered the showdown with a 2-0 record in Last 32 Group M after claiming a tight 87-83 win at BC Nizhny Novgorod in freezing Russia last week following a victory over Olimpija Ljubljana.
However, it continued to struggle in local action in recent weeks, dropping to a 96-86 defeat at Maccabi Ashdod on Sunday, its second straight loss in the BSL. Those setbacks sandwiched a dramatic yellow-and-blue comeback in the State Cup quarterfinals, with Maccabi erasing a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to overcome Maccabi Haifa and avoid an early exit.
Matters had surprisingly been far more straightforward in the Eurocup, at least until Wednesday, when Maccabi, which was demoted to the competition following its Euroleague regular season exit, met a strong Kazan side.
There was little to separate the teams in a tight first period which ended with Kazan ahead by a single point (24-23). Tel Aviv pulled ahead in the second quarter and led by as many as nine points (44-35), only for the visitors to close within one point (49-48) by the break.
The game was still wide open entering the final 10 minutes, with the Russians ahead by three points (71-68). However, seven straight points by Kazan opened a double-digit gap (80-70) with just over six minutes to play and Maccabi never came close again.
Devin Smith led Maccabi with 20 points, with the hosts committing just four turnovers but being outrebounded 45-27.
“Maybe we could do better defensively but it is difficult to do better when so many players are out,” said Tabak. “I’m sorry the crowd feels disappointed and this team is not living up to their expectations. But it is what it is. We will try to get better.”
Maccabi visits Kazan next week and should finally have new signing Gal Mekel at its disposal.
The Israel guard is still awaiting his release from previous club Red Star Belgrade and was anyway not eligible to play in the Eurocup until the second half of the Last 32.
Former Maccabi guard Keith Langford led five Kazan players in double-figures with 30 points.
“It felt good being out there, being on the floor in this atmosphere again,” said Langford.
“Maccabi came out really aggressive but what was important was that we responded. I didn’t start the game well at all but was able to make some shots at the start of the second half and that helped me get started.”
Hapoel Jerusalem (0-2) visited Strasbourg (2-0) in Group H action late Wednesday night.
Elsewhere, Maccabi Rishon Lezion closed in on a place in the Europe Cup round of 16, beating Novo Mesto 79-61 to improve to 3-1 in Group O. Rishon trailed by six points (36-30) at the interval, but a 21-0 run in the second half put the hosts in complete control (68-43) and clinched the win.
Mark Lyons had 19 points, with Darryl Monroe and Chris Wright scoring 17 points each. Ive Ivanov finished with 14 points for the Slovenians.
“We made some changes in the second half and secured the victory in the third quarter,” said Rishon coach Sharon Drucker.
“We need to build on this win and if we can advance to the round of 16 that would be a fantastic achievement.”