Mac TA's Ricky Hickman 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After coming back from the dead, Maccabi Tel Aviv can inch ever closer to
advancing to the Euroleague quarterfinals when it hosts Besiktas JK at Nokia
Arena on Thursday night.
Maccabi looked to be out of the running for a
top-four finish in Top 16 Group F after winning just two of its first seven
games, losing three times at home.
However, five straight wins, including
three on the road, the last of which came last week at European champion
Olympiacos, have propelled Maccabi right back into contention entering its final
two group games.
Tel Aviv will be a firm favorite against Besiktas, which
only claimed its first Top 16 win last week to improve to 1-11, and the
yellow-and-blue could even secure a quarterfinal berth on Friday should other
results in the group go its way.
Maccabi stunned Olympiacos 73-67 to
improve to a 7-5 record, tied for second place with the Greeks, Montepaschi
Siena and Khimki Moscow.
A win over Besiktas combined with an expected
Siena loss to group leader Barcelona (11-1) on Friday will in all likelihood
ensure the yellow-andblue progress to the last eight.
However, with the
group possibly ending with a three or fourway tie for second place, Maccabi will
likely only officially secure its qualification with the final buzzer of its
last Top 16 game at Barcelona next Thursday, even should it defeat Besiktas and
Tel Aviv could even end the group in second place and claim
home-court advantage in the quarterfinals, but all its hard work will go to
waste should it slip-up against Besiktas.
After beginning the Top 16 with
11 consecutive defeats, including a 77-55 home loss to Maccabi, Besiktas finally
got off the mark against the slumping Italians last week, winning 72- 70 in
However, the Turks will still be playing for no more than pride
in Tel Aviv.
Since losing to Maccabi in Turkey, Besiktas has seen
topscorer Curtis Jerrells leave and key contributor Dan Ewing sidelined with a
Slovenian Vidmar Gasper has stepped up to become the team’s
leading scorer in the Top 16 with 11.2 points per game, but the center’s most
eye-catching stat is his free-throw percentage, shooting a shocking Euroleague
worse of 34 percent.
“We need to win on Thursday and until we do that we
will not look any further ahead,” said guard Yogev Ohayon. “We are perfect in
the second round of the Top 16 so far and we want to keep it that way against