(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After getting back on track with four consecutive road wins, Maccabi Tel Aviv returns to Nokia Arena on Thursday night to face one of Europe’s in-form teams in CSKA Moscow.
Maccabi was reeling after suffering three straight humbling defeats earlier this month, losing to Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv by 30 and 20 points, respectively, in BSL action, while also dropping to a stunning home loss in the Euroleague to Cedevita Zagreb.
The yellow-and-blue also lost captain Guy Pnini to a season-ending Achilles injury, but nevertheless bounced back with four victories in a row, all away from home.
Maccabi overcame Unicaja Malaga and Limoges to improve to 4-2 in the Euroleague, while moving to 6-2 in the BSL by defeating Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and Maccabi Haifa.
Tel Aviv has also managed to win without the injured Brian Randle over the past three games, but coach Guy Goodes knows his shorthanded roster will face a challenge of a completely different magnitude on Thursday.
CSKA leads Group B with a 6-0 record, winning by an average margin of 14.7 points per game.
CSKA easily beat Maccabi 99-80 in their first meeting of the season in Russia. The yellow-and-blue was blown out in the second half, with Moscow outscoring the visitors 32-13 in the third quarter.
“It sometimes helps to get away as it allows you to regain your focus,” explained Goodes, whose team will be playing at home after two-and-a-half weeks on the road. “The players learned to accept each other and I have no doubt that we can play even better. We are facing a big challenge against CSKA which has so far thrashed every team it has met.”
Maccabi guard Jeremy Pargo will be desperate to show what he is capable of against his former team after finishing with a disappointing seven points on 2-of-13 from the field in Moscow.
Pargo has also taken a back seat in Maccabi’s past two Euroleague wins, although it was his nine points in the final minute of last week’s game at Limoges which secured the yellow-and-blue’s triumph.
In the absence of Pnini and Randle, Sylven Landesberg has stepped up over the past week, finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds against Limoges before scoring 31 points in Sunday’s BSL victory over Maccabi Haifa.
CSKA is set to welcome back Milos Teodosic after he missed last week’s 95-66 win over Alba Berlin. Teodosic leads the team with 17.4 points and 8.4 assists per game, with Sonny Weems averaging 14.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds.
“Our only intention is to go there and win, though we understand it won’t be that easy,” said Weems. “They are extra motivated after the big loss in Moscow, they need to fight in every game to ensure their position in the Top 16. Still I think we are in good shape, on a roll, and we are ready to continue playing well.”