Maccabi Tel Aviv's Devin Smith 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be playing for pride as much as anything else when it
hosts Olympiacos in Euroleague Top 16 action at Nokia Arena on Thursday
The yellow-and-blue suffered a humbling 88-67 thrashing at Khimki
Moscow last week, dropping to its third defeat in four Top 16
Maccabi was completely outplayed in the Russian capital and its
hopes of reaching the quarterfinals, as well as its honor, will be on the line
against the defending European champion on Thursday.
“This is a must-win
game for us,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “We can’t afford to lose any more
home games. We are doing everything we can to make up for last week’s
performance. I always tell my players that things are never as bad or as good as
they seem right after a game.”
Maccabi’s poor start combined with other
results leaves Blatt’s side in an awkward position just four encounters into the
Top 16’s 14-game schedule.
Tel Aviv already finds itself two games out of
a place in the top four, with Montepaschi Siena (4-0), Caja Laboral Vitoria
(4-0), Barcelona (3-1) and Khimki Moscow (3-1) all opening the Top 16 in
With 10 games still to play, Maccabi has got plenty
of time to make up lost ground, but Blatt understands that another home defeat
on Thursday would essentially end any realistic chance Tel Aviv has of
qualifying for the quarterfinals.
“Olympiacos has held onto the core of
its roster from last season and enters the game in a similar situation to us
with a 1-3 record and on the back of a painful home defeat,” said
“It doesn’t hurt us that they are missing Josh Powell and Acie
Law, but they have plenty of other good players.”
Blatt believes there
will be several more twists and turns in the group.
“There will still be
surprises in this group,” he noted.
“Vitoria looks like the strongest
team in the group and we almost beat them.
Plenty more will still
Olympiacos is led by playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis (15.6 PPG, 5.4
APG), who has scored in double figures in 16 of his last 17 Euroleague games
going back to last season.
Center Giorgi Shermadini will also garner
plenty of attention on Thursday after beginning the season with Maccabi before
being released prior to the Top 16 and joining the Greeks.
“This is our
last chance,” said Maccabi forward Lior Eliyahu. “This is also their last chance
so I imagine there will be a war on court.
“Apart from the game against
Khimki we have played okay. We need to forget about that game and beat