Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Guy Goodes.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After the surprise setback in Game 3, Maccabi Tel Aviv will be desperate to secure its progress to the BSL final when it visits Hapoel Eilat on Sunday night with a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five semifinal series.
Eilat recorded a 104-98 overtime win at Yad Eliyahu Arena last Wednesday to keep its season alive for at least four more days.
Maccabi led by double digits in the third quarter, but allowed Eilat back into the game and will have to finish off the series on the road to avoid a fifth and decisive contest at Yad Eliyahu on Wednesday.
Hapoel Jerusalem awaits the winner, advancing to the league final for the first time since 2008 on Thursday after completing a 3-0 sweep of Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Failing to reach the final is unthinkable for the yellowand- blue, but Maccabi will be confident of wrapping up the series on Sunday after cruising to an 86-64 win in Eilat in Game 2 last week.
Tel Aviv, which is targeting its 21st straight final, is still without star forward Devin Smith, who has been out with a thigh injury since Game 1.
Maccabi can at least console itself in the knowledge that the defeat in Game 3 means the home-and-away BSL final will be held as originally scheduled on June 22 and 25, affording Smith additional time to recuperate. The BSL had planned to bring the final forward by five days had both semifinals ended in sweeps.
Eilat celebrated as if it had won the series after avoiding a sweep last week and coach Arik Shivek is concerned his players will allow themselves to relax ahead of Game 4.
“We knew we had to take some risks in Game 3 and I’m happy that we controlled the tempo for most of the game,” said Shivek. “We don’t have to prove anything to anyone after beating Maccabi on the road.
Maccabi is very disappointed it didn’t manage to end the series in three games and we hope our game plan will work in Game 4 as well.”