Maccabi Tel Aviv 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was just one month ago that Maccabi Tel Aviv was thoroughly outplayed by Caja Laboral Vitoria in its Euroleague regular season opener in Spain.
Vitoria outscored Maccabi 31-11 in the first 10 minutes on its way to a humbling 94- 78 victory, raising many doubts regarding the yellowand- blue’s ability to compete with the continent’s best.
Thirty days later it all looks so different.
Since its embarrassing setback in Spain, Maccabi has won nine straight games in all competitions, thrashing its BSL opponents by an average 29 points and moving top of Euroleague Group A with a 4- 1 record thanks to road wins in Belgrade and Moscow and home triumphs over Zalgiris Kaunas and Prokom Gdyina last week.
Vitoria, on the other hand, has dropped three straight continental games, falling to Khimki Moscow and Zalgiris before losing 74-71 at Partizan last week.
A victory for Maccabi on Thursday over the only team to beat it so far this season will provide further proof of David Blatt’s team’s terrific potential.
However, the Tel Aviv coach is wary of the match-up problems Caja presents his team and sees no advantage in the Spanish champion’s recent run of European defeats, especially with Vitoria currently joint-top of its local standings with a 7-1 record after beating reigning Euroleague champion Barcelona 87-80 in league play on Saturday.
“It’s true that Vitoria has lost several Euroleague games recently, but we mustn’t forget that they were defeated in Partizan and Khimki, which are tough places to play,” Blatt said. “Caja beat Barcelona on Saturday and there’s no reason to feel sorry for them. They are still one of the best teams in Europe.”
Vitoria’s one-sided victory over Maccabi at the start of this season was
its fifth straight win against the yellow- and-blue, with the Spaniards
sweeping their season series against Tel Aviv in 2006/07 and last
Mirza Teletovic led Laboral to a 91-82 win at Nokia last year, hitting
8-of-14 three-pointers on his way to a Euroleague career-best of 28
The Bosnian forward also scored 16 points, including four threes, in
Caja’s latest win over the Israelis, but the player who caused Maccabi
the most problems was guard David Logan, who netted 25 points in 26
However, in Vitoria’s three Euroleague games since, Logan has only
managed to score in double-figures once, with the entire team averaging
74.8 points per game, less than the amount it managed against Maccabi in
the first three periods.
“From what I have seen, Maccabi is playing better, faster and scoring
easy baskets,” Vitoria coach Dusko Ivanovic said. “I think they are one
of the best teams in Europe regarding the one on one transition. Every
game is important for our future, and even though one can make all the
calculations in the world, the most important thing is to take one game
at a time.”
Fernando San Emeterio, who recorded the only double- double of his
45-game Euroleague career with a 10- point and 11-rebound showing
against Maccabi on opening night, is also expecting an extremely tough
encounter in Tel Aviv.
“Maccabi is entering the game on the back of several important wins and
we are facing a game which is even tougher than the one against
Barcelona,” the Spanish guard said. “We showed that we have overcome the
crisis by beating the European champion, but a win against Maccabi will
prove it beyond doubt.”
In other local hoops news, Bnei Hasharon announced the signing of former Maccabi star Maceo Baston on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old forward helped Tel Aviv to the 2004 and 2005 Euroleague
titles, but played just 89 games over three NBA seasons with the Indiana
Pacers and Toronto Raptors before returning to European basketball last