Macabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite being drawn with reigning European champion Barcelona in Group F of the
Euroleague Top 16 on Tuesday, Maccabi Tel Aviv will be one of the favorites to
make it through to the quarterfinal playoffs.
Olimpija Ljubljana and
Lottomatica Roma are Maccabi’s two other group opponents, and although neither
will be a walkover, Tel Aviv and Barca are expected to claim the top two spots
in the group and advance to a best-of-five series for a place in the Final
“On the one hand, you never want to face Barcelona,” Maccabi coach
David Blatt said. “Barca is clearly one of the favorites to make it through to
the Final Four and is a top quality team with endless resources, talent and
“But on the other hand, at least we know we can’t meet them
in the quarterfinals.”
Maccabi’s 9-1 regular season record was the best
in the competition, with Barcelona losing three times in the first group stage
to finish in a disappointing third place.
Barcelona has battled key
injuries all season, but it has arguably the best roster on the continent,
including new addition Alan Anderson, who played in Tel Aviv last
“It will not be easy to play Barcelona, but it will be a good
challenge,” guard Doron Perkins said.
“We’ve got to take all the good
things from the first round and take them to the second round and also try and
improve what we can.”
Maccabi will begin its Top 16 campaign at Barcelona
on January 20, before hosting Roma and Ljubljana.
It will start its
second round of games in Slovenia, before facing Barca in Tel Aviv and wrapping
up its group games in Italy.
“Maccabi and Olimpija have won all their
games at home this season and this shows the difficulty of the games we have to
play against them in their arenas,” Barcelona coach Xavier Pascual said.
“Everybody knows that when you lose a game in the Top 16, you are in a tough
situation and this time it won’t be different.”
Ljubljana was one of the
surprise teams in the regular season, finishing second in its group from which
CSKA Moscow failed to qualify.
Jure Zdovc’s roster is unbeaten in front
of its loyal fan base at the new Stozice Arena and has proven it can play in the
clutch, with all six of its wins coming by fewer than 10 points.
season there is a surprise team like Ljubljana which makes it through to the
latter stages,” Blatt said.
“No one thought Partizan Belgrade would make
the Final Four last season.”
Roma only just made it through to the Top 16
with a 5-5 record, but even though it might not challenge for a quarterfinal
berth, it could well decide who eventually advances depending on the results it
“We have two more weeks to prepare for the Top 16 and we are
still trying to add some small things,” Blatt said.
“Now we know who we
are facing we can prepare specific tactics for our opponents. We have already
found our identity as a team and we want to build on that.”M