Maccabi Tel Aviv targeting significant road win in Athens

Spahija knows a balanced performance is required to give Panathinaikos a run for its money.

December 19, 2017 04:54
3 minute read.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s Jason Siffers

Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s Jason Siffers . (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

After being outplayed in its past two Euroleague games on the road, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits one of the competition’s best home teams in Panathinaikos in Athens on Tuesday.

Maccabi fell to a 7-5 record with Friday’s 101-86 defeat at CSKA Moscow, which was in complete control from the second quarter.

The yellow-and-blue was thrashed by 22 points in Barcelona in its previous road game last month and faces a mammoth task against Panathinaikos, which is unbeaten at home in six Euroleague encounters this season, losing only once in 21 regular season home games since the start of last season.

Pao defeated Olimpia Milano 80-72 in Athens on Friday, but lost key playmaker Nick Calathes, who is averaging 13.6 points per game and a league-best 7.9 assists, to a shoulder injury. KC Rivers (11.7 ppg) and Nikos Pappas (10.5 ppg) will likely be called upon to play larger roles, although Maccabi guards Pierre Jackson (14.1 ppg) and Norris Cole (13.4 ppg, 4.3 apg) will be determined to take advantage of the absence of Calathes.

Jackson and Cole have basically alternated good games since the start of the campaign and Maccabi will likely need both of them to be at their best to have a chance of winning in Athens.

“Calathes is one of the best players out there, but any big team can play with some players missing,” said Maccabi coach Neven Spahija.

“I don’t think it will be an easy game at all. We have to be better, more focused and play good basketball for 40 minutes if possible. We had a good practice and I hope we can show it in this game.”

Panathinaikos has the third-best defense in the competition, allowing 77.2 points per game, but Maccabi isn’t too far behind (80.1 ppg).

“Maccabi is a great team full of great players, we cannot focus on a few,” said Pao’s Spanish coach Xavi Pascual. “They are athletic, they like to play one on one. They are one of the teams that run fastbreaks well. We have to pay attention on defense and control the defensive rebounds.”

Panathinaikos forward Kenny Gabriel admitted the Greeks face a different challenge with Calathes out.

“Everybody has to step up because Nick is not with us. He does a lot for this team,” said Gabriel.

“No doubt it will be tough, but we have to come together and play better as a team. It will be a tough game, but we have to stay focused on both sides of the floor.”

Spahija knows a balanced performance is required to give Panathinaikos a run for its money.

“Every game I see something new from my players,” he said. “New positives and negatives. We have allowed a lot of points recently, but we have been better on the offensive end.”

Elsewhere, BSL chairman Shmuel Frenkel sent a letter to ULEB President Tomas Van Den Spiegel, protesting the intention to expand the Euroleague, which is run by ULEB, to 18 teams.

The BSL and several other domestic leagues in Europe didn’t send representatives to last week’s meeting in Barcelona to discuss among other topics, a new Euroleague proposal regarding a global playing calendar that will be shared with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) later this month.

“We, The Israeli BSL, decided not to attend the recent meeting in Barcelona, since we feel that the Domestic Leagues’ voice isn’t heard and considered,” wrote Frenkel.

“Not only are the Domestic League’s interests not considered – they are harmed time and again. Even though the Leagues had several very legitimate complaints against the Euroleague’s actions and decisions in recent years, the situation hasn’t changed.

“It is our understanding, that if the Euroleague will increase to 18 teams, once every two weeks the teams will play two Euroleague games in 48 hours – which will cause an additional critical blow to local leagues, financially and marketing- wise. We believe that the European football model, where teams never play more than one international game per week, is much more suitable. We think that the Domestic Leagues must meet and express our unified stand on these matters.”

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