Euroleague Basketball: Mac TA faces challenge vs Eliyahu, Vitoria

Euroleague Basketball M

October 29, 2009 00:36
3 minute read.

With all that has gone on recently in Maccabi-ville, it seems like an eternity since the club got its Euroleague campaign off to a winning start two weeks ago. The Moni Fanan scandal has meant Maccabi Tel Aviv's games have become somewhat of an afterthought. However, Tel Aviv will be hoping to finally make headlines for the right reasons on Thursday night when it visits Caja Laboral Vitoria in Spain. Maccabi's players and coaches have done their best to distance themselves from the whirlwind which followed Fanan's suicide last week, refusing to answer questions on the matter and only agreeing to say that they remain focused on their games. After its easy opening win against Olimpija Ljubljana at the Nokia Arena two weeks ago, Maccabi faces a far tougher opponent on Thursday. This may not be the same Vitoria team which reached four of the last five Final Fours, as last week's loss at Lottomatica Roma showed. However, Dusko Ivanovic's side will still pose a serious threat to Maccabi, especially at the Fernando Buesa Arena. Had it not been for the Fanan affair, Lior Eliyahu's first meeting with Maccabi would have been the story of the game. Eliyahu left Tel Aviv for Vitoria after three seasons this summer, agreeing to a lucrative three-year contract. The 24-year-old was one of Tel Aviv's best players last season, averaging 14 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in the Euroleague. Eliyahu missed Vitoria's Euroleague opener through injury last week, with summer signings, Walter Herrmann, who is out for several months, and scorer Brad Olseon also among those missing in Rome. Eliyahu will be back in action on Thursday, and together with All-Euroleague center Tiago Splitter and power forward Mirza Teletovic will give Maccabi's big-men a real headache. "After the loss in Rome, this game is crucial to us," Eliyahu said. "We cannot start with two defeats in the first two games. It's not about the rival, it's about us. "It's going to be a little different for me, especially in the first minutes. I guess it will be very emotional because I will face my former team. Anyway, we are professional basketball players, so I will do whatever it takes to win. I don't like to talk about the other team. I prefer to talk about my team. We must take care of our own business, try to play good defense, run the court, play well and grab the win." Maccabi coach Pini Gershon is hoping to make the most of Vitoria's opening defeat. "Vitoria has lost already in the Euroleague and losing another one, at home, will put them under pressure. I hope we can take advantage of that," Gershon said. "We still have a long way to go and a lot of hard work to do before we play as we should." Maccabi defeated Vitoria in the Euroleague final in Moscow in 2005, with Gershon and Ivanovic coaching in that game and now back with their teams again. Only Derrick Sharp and Yaniv Green of Maccabi and Tiago Splitter of Caja Laboral remain from the rosters which played for the title four years ago. "I think only three players are still playing on the teams, but coach Ivanovic and I both left and came back, so maybe it means something," Gershon added. Alan Anderson, who led Maccabi with 25 points against Ljubljana, has been the star of the team so far this season, but Gershon is still waiting for a breakout game from expensive signings, Chuck Eidson and Maciej Lampe. "We're going there to win, because we want to win every game and win our group," said Lampe, who had six points and six rebounds in 28 minutes at the Nokia Arena two weeks ago. "Our chances to win are great. They are a good team, but we're a good team too. They lost in Roma and we saw that game, so we're looking forward to playing them. We're ready to go now."

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