Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Gal Mekel (right) finished last night’s 91-67 win over Oren Dgani (left) and Maccabi Kiryat Gat with 13 points and nine assists..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After a roller-coaster start to the season, Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to have found its way and will finally enter a Euroleague game as a firm favorite when it hosts Efes Istanbul at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night.
Maccabi has won three straight Euroleague games to improve to a 5-4 record, moving above .500 for the first time this season with an impressive 80-73 triumph over Olympiacos in Athens last week.
Maccabi is already up to fourth place in the standings, but with a single game separating fourth and 12th, there is little meaning to its current position, especially with the team to complete only the first third of its regular season games on Thursday.
The yellow-and-blue faces teams from the bottom half of the standings in its next three contests, hosting Brose Bamberg (2-7) of Germany next week before visiting Red Star Belgrade (4-5).
Maccabi will be expecting to keep its winning streak alive at least until it hosts reigning champion CSKA Moscow on December 21.
A victory over Efes will give Tel Aviv four straight Euroleague wins for the first time since January 2015, with Maccabi not winning six in a row since the triumphant 2013/14 campaign when it claimed eight consecutive victories at one stage before going on to lift the Euroleague title.
Efes enters Thursday with a 4-5 record, beginning its campaign with three straight defeats before winning four of its past six games. Only one of those victories came on the road, leaving Velimir Perasovic’s team with a 1-4 record away from home.
Efes is led by point guard Thomas Heurtel (12.8 ppg, 6.0 apg) and forwards Derrick Brown (12.6 ppg and 6.0 rpg) and DeShaun Thomas (12.1 ppg). Istanbul boasts the third best offensive record in the competition (87.5 ppg), but its defense is the third weakest in the league, allowing 89.0 points per game.
After struggling on defense at the start of its campaign, allowing an average 93.3 points in its first three Euroleague contests, Maccabi has shown a significant improvement under coach Rami Hadar. Tel Aviv has limited its opponents to 74.3 points over the last three games, a trend it will be aiming to continue on Thursday against Istanbul’s high-scoring offense.