Euroleague: Maccabi TA facing must-win match

If Maccabi Tel Aviv fails to defeat Real Madrid on Thursday night it can all but kiss its Final Four aspirations goodbye.

March 13, 2008 02:21
1 minute read.
Euroleague: Maccabi TA facing must-win match

Maccabi 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

There are no two ways around it. If Maccabi Tel Aviv fails to defeat Real Madrid on Thursday night it can all but kiss its Final Four aspirations goodbye. A defeat at the Palacio Vistalegre in the Spanish capital will end Maccabi's hopes of finishing first in Group F and securing home court advantage in the quarterfinal playoff. Tel Aviv will still be in the mix for second position in the group regardless of Thursday's result, but the team will be a massive underdog should it enter the best-of-three playoff without home court advantage, especially with defending European champion CSKA Moscow its likely opponent. "We are well aware of the importance and difficulty of this game," coach Tzvika Sherf said on Wednesday. "I won't talk about the odds or our chances. It won't be a stroll in the park." "In the Top 16, every team is the favorite when playing at home, but we were also favored against Olympiacos." Maccabi, which defeated Madrid 94-75 in what was its best game of the season when the teams met at the Nokia Arena two weeks ago, has struggled since, losing at home to Bnei Hasharon and Olympiacos and only just surviving a late scare against Hapoel Holon on Sunday. Real, which is a perfect 9-0 at home in the Euroleague this season, bounced right back from its disappointing loss in Tel Aviv, claiming a important win at Zalgiris Kaunas last week to take sole possession of first place in the group. One of the biggest mysteries regarding Maccabi's collapse against Olympiacos last week was that forward Omri Casspi was left on the bench throughout the entire encounter. The previous week, the young Israeli international was excellent in the win over Madrid, scoring 10 points, but even more importantly injecting needed enthusiasm into the team on both ends of the court. Casspi, who was also superb against Holon on Sunday, believes Maccabi and Real are evenly matched and that Tel Aviv will rise to the occasion on Thursday. "This is the most important game of the season so far," Casspi said on Wednesday. "We need to give everything we have. We need to try and enjoy the game, and if we do so, we will win."

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