Mac TA gunning for fourth in a row

Yellow-and-blue hopes to stay atop Group A with cellar-dwelling Prokom paying a visit.

November 18, 2010 06:33
3 minute read.
MACCABI TEL AVIV forward Lior Eliyahu has yet to s

Lior Eliyahu 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

After claiming its third straight Euroleague victory with an impressive win at BC Khimki Moscow last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv comes up against an obstacle it has yet to face this season when it hosts Prokom Gdynia at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.

With confidence levels sky high and the Polish champion entering the encounter still winless in the Euroleague this season, Maccabi will have to first and foremost ward off complacency to ensure Thursday’s game goes as expected.

After recording comfortable victories over Zalgiris Kaunas and Partizan Belgrade, David Blatt’s team showed last week that it also has the temperament to win close games, with David Blu’s dramatic three-pointer giving the yellow-and-blue a 78-76 victory in the Russian capital.

Tel Aviv would have entered the game against Prokom as a firm favorite even without taking recent form into account, something which is not lost on Blatt, who has no intention of allowing his players to overlook their opponents on Thursday.

“People are saying that this is supposed to be an easy game, but that is the last thing we should be thinking,” Blatt said. “Prokom has had some very good seasons in the Euroleague and it has five players with NBA experience. Its record at the moment might not be so positive, but this is a very dangerous team.

“We can’t afford to lower our intensity levels and we must maintain the same hunger for winning.”

Despite beginning its Euroleague campaign 0-4, Gdynia has not gone down without a fight, losing all of its games by seven points or less.

Prokom, which reached the Euroleague quarterfinals last season, has built its team around three Americans a Serb.

Its deep backcourt includes the likes of Dan Ewing (12.8 ppg) and Bobby Brown (11.5 ppg), with swingman J.R.

Giddens (13.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and bigman Ratko Varda (12.3 ppg) also extremely dangerous players Maccabi will have to keep a close eye on.

“Maccabi won some important games against Zalgiris, Partizan and last week with Khimki,” said Prokom coach Tomas Pacesas, whose team’s biggest problem at the moment is the fact that it is shooting a Euroleague low 41.9 percent from two-point range.

“They are in good shape and play very good, athletic basketball. Our opponents are strong under the basket and also outside, so it will be a very hard game for us. We have had a few days to prepare ourselves for the game and we have to be really ready to play against Maccabi.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Tel Aviv’s win in Moscow was the fact that once more it did not need a standout solo performance to clinch the conquest.

No Maccabi player currently averages more than 30 minutes on court, with nine players averaging at least 15 minutes, and each of them contributing their fair share to the team’s early-season success.

“I’m sure Prokom is entering this game with the hope of turning its season around,” Blatt said. “However, the pressure is on us and we must remember that we are not a great team and that we will only achieve success through hard work.

“As long as we keep up that attitude we will play with confidence, but once we don’t we can lose to any team.”

Guard Doron Perkins, who starred in the team’s win in Moscow, is hoping Maccabi can continue its progress on Thursday.

“It is good to be back at home after two road games,” Perkins said. “It is important we build on the momentum from our recent victories. We have played pretty well so far and I hope we continue to improve against Prokom.

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