Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Victor Rudd..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Any lingering hopes Maccabi Tel Aviv may have had of reaching the Euroleague playoffs were officially dashed in Istanbul on Thursday night.
Maccabi’s 92-87 defeat to Efes Istanbul saw it drop to a 9-17 record, falling five games back of Efes in eighth place in the standings and the last ticket to the quarterfinals, with four regular season games to play.
Maccabi began its campaign in Milano five months ago brimming with confidence and excitement, but two consecutive defeats and the subsequent sacking of head coach Erez Edelstein left it reeling with the season barely underway.
Edelstein was replaced at the helm by his assistant Rami Hadar. After 10 continental contests, Hadar handed in his resignation, leaving assistant Lior Lubin to guide the team in two games before Ainars Bagatskis was hired.
Maccabi still believed in its chances when the Latvian was brought in, but seven defeats from 10 games deflated even the team’s most optimistic fans and last week’s home victory over Milano only delayed the inevitable.
With Thursday’s loss ending the yellow-and- blue’s mathematical chance of finishing in the top eight, its final four continental games will be no more than glorified scrimmages.
Maccabi played the first of five games over 10 days on Thursday, including three in the Euroleague. But the yellow-and-blue would likely much rather win its upcoming BSL games - Sunday’s derby showdown with Hapoel Tel Aviv and the clash with second-place Hapoel Holon, which is one game back of Maccabi entering the final third of the regular season.
“The game against Efes was the start of a tough stretch for us of five games in 10 days,” said Maccabi guard Gal Mekel. “In addition to that game, we face Hapoel Tel Aviv in the local derby, head back to Istanbul to play Fenerbahce, then return home to play Zalgiris Kaunas and finally meet Holon, which is in second place in the Israeli league. This stretch is a challenge we are looking forward to.”
Maccabi can turn its full attention to the BSL following Thursday’s defeat in Istanbul. Tel Aviv led by as many as eight points (35- 27) in the second quarter, but needed Joe Alexander’s buzzer-beater to ensure it was ahead (42-41) at the break.
The game remained tight until Jayson Granger single-handedly gave the hosts a double-digit margin, scoring 10 straight points while Maccabi only managed two as a team to give Efes a 62-52 advantage.
Istanbul still led by 10 points (67-57) entering the final 10 minutes, and despite Victor Rudd’s best efforts which kept the visitors within striking distance for much of the frame, Maccabi couldn’t complete a comeback and dropped to yet another loss.
Rudd led Tel Aviv with 23 points, while Sylven Landesberg added 20 points.
Granger scored 22 points for Efes, which improved to 14-12 despite a mediocre display which only helped highlight what a bitter disappointment Maccabi’s campaign has been.