Moment of truth for yellow-and-blue

Mac TA cautiously optimistic at home, down 0-2 to Fener with Euroleague campaign hanging by a thread.

By
April 20, 2015 02:29
3 minute read.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis

Maccabi Tel Aviv center Sofoklis Schortsanitis scored 21 points in 17 minutes in the 113-93 win over Maccabi Rishon Lezion at Yad Eliyahu Arena. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

 
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Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague season, as well as its pride, will be on the line on Monday night in Game 3 of the quarterfinal series against Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul at Yad Eliyahu Arena.

A third defeat in seven days to Fenerbahce will bring the yellow- and-blue’s title defense to a humbling end with a 3-0 sweep in the best-of-five series.

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A win, however, will reignite Maccabi’s hopes of returning to the Final Four and force a Game 4 in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Game 5, should it be necessary, will be played in Istanbul on April 28, although Maccabi can’t afford to think too far ahead at the moment.

The yellow-and-blue was helpless in an 82-67 defeat in Game 2 last week, being outscored 30-14 in the first period and trailing by double-digits for the remainder of the night.

Maccabi will be first and foremost playing to avoid a sweep on Monday, but still believes it can become the first team to erase a 0-2 deficit in the Euroleague quarterfinals since they became a best-of-five affair in 2008/09.

“I was personally hurt by the defeat in Game 2 because I don’t like seeing my team play like that. I hope the players took it personally as well,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes.



Nevertheless, Goodes believes the series is far from over.

“We need to recover from two straight defeats and play with self-respect in our arena in front of our fans, who are worth 10-15 points a game,” he said.

“We need to first of all win on Monday to remain in the picture and only then will we be able to think of the next game.”

Goodes once more set his roster the target of holding the Turks to around 70 points and he is certain his players will not want to see their continental campaign come to an end at Yad Eliyahu.

“This is a do-or-die game,” he said. “We don’t want our season to end, certainly not in our home arena. This will be a big battle.”

Maccabi has so far managed to compete with Fenerbahce in the guard and forward positions, only to be outplayed under the baskets.

Maccabi’s guards and forwards have outscored their Turkish counterparts 122-106 in the first two games, but Fenerbahce’s centers have dominated Tel Aviv’s big-men Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Alex Tyus, who have managed a combined 17 points to their opponents 56.

“It is good to be 2-0 before we go to Tel Aviv, but I have experience and know how difficult it is to play over there and how proud Maccabi is,” said Fenerbahce coach and eight-time Euroleague champion Zeljko Obradovic. “The goal is simple: we need one more victory.”

Holon thrashes Hapoel TA, closes on top-4 seed
Meanwhile, in BSL action, Hapoel Holon took an important step towards ending the regular season in the top four and securing home-court advantage in the playoffs after dominating Hapoel Tel Aviv in an 83-60 win on Sunday night.

Holon improved to 15-13 while Tel Aviv dropped to 14-14 after the hosts built a 13-point gap (50-37) at the break thanks to a 33-point second quarter before maintaining control until the final buzzer.

Tony Crocker led five Holon players in double figures with 18 points, while Durand Scott had 13 points for Tel Aviv.

The battle for a place in the playoffs continues on Monday, with only 3.5 games separating Maccabi Rishon Lezion (15-13) in third place and Ironi Nahariya (11-16) in 10th. The top eight will advance to the playoffs, with the top four to have homecourt advantage in the quarterfinals.

On Monday, Hapoel Eilat (13- 14) welcomes Maccabi Haifa (12- 15), while Bnei Herzliya (12-15) visits Nahariya (11-16).

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