Mac TA gets Barca, Olimpija and Roma in Top 16 group

Maccabi Tel Aviv will be one of the favorites to make it through to the quarterfinal playoffs.

January 5, 2011 06:30
2 minute read.
Macabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt

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 Four.

“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 experience.

“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 year.

“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.

“Every 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 records.

“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

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