Mac TA gets opportunity to avenge lone Euroleague defeat

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.

By
November 25, 2010 05:46
3 minute read.
Maccabi Tel Aviv

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.

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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 season.

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 points.

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 minutes.

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 season.


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