Maccabi Tel Aviv 390.
(photo credit: Ints Kalnins/Reuters)
Since coach David Blatt rejoined Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer of 2010, the
yellow-and-blue has lost just one of 16 Euroleague home games.
defeat came in February of last year against Barcelona in the Top
Maccabi will have a chance to avenge that loss and take a significant
step towards securing homecourt advantage in the quarterfinal playoffs when
Barcelona returns to Nokia Arena on Thursday night in Game 2 of this season’s
Barcelona has been one of the Euroleague’s strongest teams over
the past four seasons, losing in the Final Four semifinals in 2008/09, lifting
the title the following year and being stunned in last season’s quarterfinals by
eventual champion Panathinaikos after going 6-0 in the Top 16.
Catalans arguably still have the continent’s best roster this season, finishing
first in regular season Group D with a 9-1 record before edging Bennet Cantu
65-60 in their Top 16 opener last week.
Barca had to manage without the
Euroleague’s all-time leading scorer, Juan Carlos Navarro, in the win over
Cantu, but the Spanish sharpshooter will be back in action on Thursday,
bolstering Xavier Pascual’s already excellent roster, which includes the likes
of Erazem Lorbek (14.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Marcelinho Huertas (9.4 ppg, 4.6 apg),
Pete Mickeal (9.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Chuck Eidson (9.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who joined
the team from Maccabi last summer.
“This is our first home game in the
Top 16 and obviously it’s very important,” Blatt said on Thursday. “We took a
significant step forward last week with the win in Kaunas, but in order to
benefit from it we have to beat Barcelona on our home court.
is a great team, very well coached, with great players and a rich tradition,
exactly like our own club. I expect an exceptional game, one that will be a
celebration for fans on both sides and throughout Europe.”
toughed out a tight fourth quarter to claim a crucial 84-76 win at Zalgiris
Kaunas last week, scoring more than 80 points for the sixth time in 11
Euroleague games this season.
However, its offense will have to be at its
very best to pass that mark once more on Thursday, with Barca allowing its
opponents a Euroleague-low 59.9 points per game.
“Barcelona is the best
defensive team in the Euroleague, one of the reasons for which is because it is
tall and athletic in almost every position,” Blatt commented. “We saw last
season that Barca failed to make it to the Final Four despite having homecourt
advantage while we managed to advance. Therefore, our main goal is to reach the
quarterfinals from either of the top two positions.
“We are not scared of
Barca, but we certainly respect it.”
Maccabi will still be without the
injured Guy Pnini on Thursday, but Blatt will otherwise have a full roster at
his disposal, including Demond Mallet, who impressed with 15 points in his
Euroleague debut in yellowand- blue last week.
“I am quite excited to
return, because I know a lot of people there. It’ll be a good game with a
great atmosphere,” Eidson said. “I can’t wait for it to start. We’ll have to
play a good game and be intelligent. In games like this, anything can happen,
but I believe we can win.
“This Maccabi team plays a little different
than last season, because there are different players, but the coach is the
same. Maccabi will always be Maccabi, a great team.”