Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Gal Mekel (right) started for just the third time in the Euroleague this season, but had just three points to go with three turnovers in a 71-67 home defeat to Red Star Belgrade..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
After losing any realistic hope of reaching the Euroleague quarterfinals with one of the most humiliating defeats in its history, Maccabi Tel Aviv plays for any pride it might have left when it hosts Unics Kazan at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night.
Maccabi was thrashed 102- 63 by Galatasaray in Istanbul on Tuesday, suffering its third heaviest defeat in club history and the biggest since it was trounced by 47 points at Real Madrid in January 1976.
The yellow-and-blue fell to a 6-13 record with its ninth defeat from the past 10 continental games, leaving it in 15th place out of 16 teams.
With 11 regular season games remaining, Maccabi still has a mathematical chance of finishing among the top eight.
However, with just one Euroleague win to its name over the past two months, and especially considering its dismal form, Maccabi’s main target until the end of the campaign will be to avoid further embarrassment.
“This isn’t an easy moment for us. I hope that the players feel as bad as the coaches felt after yesterday’s game,” said Maccabi coach Ainars Bagatskis. “We have to decide what we are playing for. Are we playing for the team? For the fans? For the money? I think you play for your own respect and for the fans’ respect. Pride is one of the most important things in professional sports.”
Bagatskis said that there was no excuse for what happened in Istanbul and insisted that the team still has plenty to play for.
The Latvian added that Maccabi “is looking for players all the time”, and when asked regarding his faith in the current roster, it was only after a long pause that he stated that he “still trusts these players.”
Kazan is one of the team’s Maccabi managed to beat earlier this season, claiming a 74-73 win in Russia back in November.
Kazan also has little hope of making the playoffs, losing three of four games to fall to a 7-12 record.
“These are difficult days, but we need to lift our heads,” said Maccabi guard Yogev Ohayon.
“We are embarrassed by our situation, at least I am. This club has pride and passion and we need to show that every night.”
Elsewhere, Maccabi Rishon Lezion advanced to the FIBA Champions League playoffs on Tuesday.
Rishon ended Group B with a 7-7 record thanks to a 69-60 win over Khimik in Ukraine and progressed to the next round as one the four best ranked fifth-place teams.
Ironi Nahariya was knocked out of the Champions League with an 81-64 defeat at Frankfurt on Wednesday, but will continue its continental campaign in the Europe Cup.