Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Devin Smith.
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
After securing its progress to the Top 16 last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv can wrap up the runner-up position in Euroleague regular season Group B on Thursday night when it visits Cedevita Zagreb.
Maccabi will be aiming to avenge its shock defeat to Cedevita at Nokia Arena last month, a loss which was sandwiched by humbling losses to Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv in BSL action.
The yellow-and-blue has since steadied the ship, winning eight of nine games over all competitions, with the only setback coming against the unbeaten CSKA Moscow.
Maccabi (5-3) clinched a place in the Top 16 with a 95-89 victory over Alba Berlin last week, and will be guaranteed second position in the group with one game to spare should it win in Zagreb and CSKA overcome Unicaja Malaga in Spain.
Maccabi led just once during the 83-73 loss to Cedevita earlier this season, and that too was only in the first quarter. Despite coming within striking distance in the fourth period, Tel Aviv couldn’t overhaul the Croatians, who hit 14 three-pointers and hauled in14 offensive boards.
Roko Ukic led five Cedevita players in double-figures with 17 points, which remains his season-high in the competition.
Zagreb, which could be eliminated with a defeat on Thursday, has since won just one more game in the Euroleague, beating Limoges 102-83 two weeks ago.
Maccabi is expected to make several changes to its roster following the end of the regular season next week, with Aleks Maric and the rarely-used Nate Linhart likely to leave.
Tel Aviv has yet to announce the identity of their replacements, but another player who could possibly be on his way out of the club over the next month is Marques Haynes.
The 28-year-old guard, who played for Olimpia Milano and Montepaschi Siena last season, has scored in double-figures just twice this season, averaging 6.8 points in 22 minutes per game in the Euroleague.
The American has also struggled in local action, averaging 5.7 points in 19.4 minutes. However, he registered arguably his best game of the season in Maccabi’s 74-66 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Monday night, scoring 17 points.
Coach Guy Goodes believes he can build on that performance in Croatia and insisted the team is not considering releasing him.
“We never thought about making any changes with Marquez,” said Goodes following the win over Rishon.
“He is part of the team. Since the start of the season he is searching for his place in the rotation and on court. He was used to other things elsewhere, but he is doing his best in every practice. I’m happy for him that he played well both defensively and offensively against Rishon and hopefully that will give him confidence going forward.”