MACCABI TEL AVIV center Sofoklis Schortsanitis.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite thrashing Olimpija Ljubljana by 37 points two weeks ago, Maccabi Tel Aviv is bracing itself for a tough challenge in Slovenia on Thursday night.
Maccabi surged into an 18-point lead after 10 minutes before cruising to a win against Ljubljana at Nokia Arena. A victory in the Slovenian capital will likely guarantee it a place in the Euroleague quarterfinals and set up a mouthwatering showdown with Barcelona next week for top position in Group F.
“We are facing a difficult game that will have nothing to do with the result from two weeks ago,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said.
“Ljubljana has played a lot of good games at home this season and has beaten some very good opponents. This will be quite a challenge. We need to play with the same intensity and aggression as we did two weeks ago.”
Ljubljana was the surprise of the Euroleague in the regular season, finishing in second place in Group D, winning all five of its games at the Stozice Arena.
However, Jure Zdovc’s men have struggled so far in the Top 16, winning their Group F opener at Lottomatica Roma before falling to their first home defeat of the campaign at the hands of Barca and being humbled in Tel Aviv by Maccabi.
While the yellow-and-blue easily leads all teams in the Top 16 in points
(91.3), two-point percentage (65.4 percent), rebounds (40) and assists
(19.3), Ljubljana has yet to score more than 67 points in its three
games and is among the competition’s worst sides in twopoint percentage
(45.8 percent), threepoint shooting (28.1 percent), rebounds (29) and
Nevertheless, Zdovc guaranteed his team would beat Maccabi at home after
seeing it drop to a painful defeat in Tel Aviv and continued to exude
confidence this week.
“We still have a chance to advance to the quarterfinals and we are very
motivated to avenge the catastrophic defeat in Tel Aviv,” Zdovc said. “I
said Maccabi is beatable before the game in Tel Aviv, and I’ll repeat
the same now.
We will do everything in our power to win this game.
“We survived the cup weekend without any major problems. Some players
are still slightly injured, but I think we will be ready for the game on
Thursday. I believe the adrenaline and the momentum of the game will do
its job and we will show our best face against Maccabi.”
Ljubljana forward Vladimir Boisa echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“We played a terrible game on the road against Maccabi and they were
unstoppable,” he said. “I believe Barcelona is a better team than
We had a last shot to win the game against Barca, so I don’t see a
reason why it wouldn’t be the same against Maccabi on Thursday.
“We have to play our game and we have to control Maccabi so they don’t
start running the court like they did in the first game in Tel Aviv. The
defeat in Israel hurt us a lot, that’s why we will do everything to
show the people that we can beat Maccabi at our home.”
Ljubljana won three games over three straight days to lift the Slovenian
cup on Sunday, and even though Tel Aviv will be far better rested,
especially considering its has won its last six games in all
competitions by an average 35.7 points, forward Lior Eliyahu is
expecting a tricky time in Slovenia.
“This game won’t be like the one in Tel Aviv,” said Eliyahu, who scored
20 points, hitting 10 of 10 shots, in the 104-67 win against Olimpija at
“This is a psychological battle that we will have to get through. It’s
never easy to play in front of 13,000 opposing fans, but we need to win
to reach the game against Barcelona in good shape. We have a big
advantage at home, but we need to bring that advantage on the road too.
“If we want to get to the playoffs and the Final Four, we will need to
win on the road. If we play like we did in Tel Aviv, we’ll be fine, but I
am certain that Olimpija will put up more of a fight.”