(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
After being outplayed by CSKA Moscow last week and dropping to its first defeat as defending champion, Maccabi Tel Aviv faces another test at Alba Berlin on Thursday night.
The 99-80 defeat to CSKA saw Maccabi fall to 1-1 in Euroleague Group B, but the yellow-and-blue will be confident of bouncing back in the German capital.
Devin Smith and Alex Tyus, who missed last week’s contest, are both expected to be back in action, and with Sofoklis Schortsanitis also slowly regaining fitness, coach Guy Goodes has finally got a full roster at his disposal.
“This game is very important at this stage of the Euroleague season,” Goodes said.
“It’s going to be tough and physical. Alba Berlin is the most physical team in the Euroleague. Both their big men and their guards play hard.
“We’re preparing mentally for this type of game and we will try to match their aggressiveness. We don’t want to fall behind at this point in the season.”
Berlin has an 0-2 record after losing its home opener 84-68 to CSKA two weeks ago, before dropping to a tight 87-84 defeat at Unicaja Malaga.
Nevertheless, coach Sasa Obradovic believes his team has nothing to lose on Thursday.
“Our schedule of playing the best three teams in our group at the beginning of the regular season is not the best,” he said. “Against the Euroleague champion, we probably even at home have nothing to lose. But our aim is to play at least a good game. This would give us confidence for the games against our other opponents in the group, which are of our level.”
Maccabi improved to 4-0 in the BSL on Monday with a straightforward 87-61 win over Ironi Nahariya ahead of next Sunday’s showdown with the undefeated Hapoel Jerusalem.
Tel Aviv will only return to Israel on Friday and won’t have long to prepare for that game. However, it will not be looking any further ahead than the Berlin encounter.
In the absence of Smith and Tyus last week, new signing Brian Randle stepped up, leading Maccabi with 18 points and six rebounds.
He is currently averaging a team-high 14.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and his play alongside Smith and Tyus will be crucial to Tel Aviv’s success.
“I saw Alba’s game last week, and they play hard,” said Smith. “Their coach emphasizes defense, and they get after it. We’ll have to be ready for that, and be aggressive enough in the game.”