Maccabi TA 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
There are two kinds of defeats that are unforgivable at Maccabi Tel Aviv - a loss in local league play and a home defeat in the Euroleague.
Coach Oded Katash and his players were humbled by Bnei Hasharon in the BSL on Sunday night, meaning a win against Aris Thessaloniki at the Nokia Arena on Thursday night is an absolute must for the stuttering side.
A fortunate ending to last week's game against Armani Jeans Milano helped Tel Aviv win its first road game of the European campaign. The victory, however, couldn't cover-up what has been clearly obvious from the very start of the season.
Maccabi (4-2) is not only nowhere near its goal of being one of Europe's top teams, but is also short of being one of the best sides in its mediocre eight Euroleague team group.
The injuries to Nikola Vujcic and Tal Burstein have obviously had a devastating effect on the team.
However, with no date set for the pair's return, Katash will have to find a way to manage in the foreseeable future with the players at his disposal.
"Aris is a better team than Milano, but the bottom line is that we have to win this game," Katash said on Thursday. "Hierarchy in a team is very important, but not if it's not justified. We will obviously not use such a large rotation as the season progresses."
Aris (4-2) began its Euroleague campaign with three straight victories, but dropped its next two games before returning to winning ways last week against Efes Pilsen. Thessaloniki is built around its three American imports.
Jeremiah Massey is the undoubted star of the Greek side, leading the team in points ( 17.2 points per game), rebounds (8.8 rpg), blocks (1.2 bpg) and minutes on court (32 mpg). Bracey Wright (14.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and Reyshawn Terry (10.7 ppg, 4 rpg) backup Massey and together with Hanno Mottola (7.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Dimitrios Tsaldaris (7.5 ppg, 2 rpg) makeup the backbone of the team's roster.
"This is a very tough game against a team with superb players," Aris coach Gordon Herbert said on his arrival in Israel on Wednesday. "It's a big challenge for us to win at the Nokia Arena.
Maccabi plays much better at home than on the road. We have to control the tempo and it's important to be focused in the key moments of the game so that we avoid committing turnovers and giving them easy points in transition."
Unlike Aris, Maccabi is still waiting for one of its players to lead the team and step into the void left by Vujcic's and Burstein's injuries.
Tel Aviv has seven players who average more than 7.3 ppg, but none who score more than nine points a game.
Only five teams of the Euroleague's 24 have scored fewer points than Maccabi.
There is, however, also a positive side to the scoring statistics as Aris is one of the sides which has scored even less points than the perennial Israeli champion.
"We haven't played well so far, but we have only lost a total of three games this season," Maccabi captain Derrick Sharp said.
"We must learn from our losses and correct our mistakes. There's still a lot of room for improvement and I hope we will continue to progress."
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