MACCABI TEL AVIV coach David Blatt_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Despite staggering into Thursday’s Euroleague showdown with Anadolu Efes
Istanbul at Nokia Arena, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt is hoping his team
can come up with one more vintage performance to all but secure second place in
Maccabi has suffered a significant drop in form since Jordan
Farmar returned to the US following the end to the NBA lockout.
edged Red Star Belgrade in the Adriatic League and Hapoel Holon in the BSL
before falling to humbling defeats at Real Madrid in the Euroleague and at KK
Zagreb in the Adriatic.
Tel Aviv needed a Devin Smith basket with 1.3
seconds to play to get the better of Maccabi Rishon Lezion in local league play
on Monday, but Blatt acknowledges his team has stuttered recently and will need
to show a significant improvement on Thursday to defeat Istanbul in a crucial
“I’m very calm despite the recent struggles, but I’m burning
inside with a desire for us to get back to our best,” Blatt said on
“It has nothing to do with the media and with what is being
said about us. It is all about my character and me being someone who wants to
win and guide Maccabi to good performances.”
Maccabi seemed set to finish
top of its regular season group after winning five straight games to improve to
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However, a defeat at Partizan Belgrade in Farmar’s final game for
the team and the thrashing in Madrid, combined with winning streaks by Real and
Efes, have seriously complicated Tel Aviv’s situation and put it in real danger
of ending the group in third place, which will likely result in a far tougher
draw in the Top 16.
“We have seen a dip in form in recent weeks for two
reasons,” Blatt explained. “We lost a ball handler who creates opportunities for
other players and we did so much traveling to road games that it affected our
play. That is not an excuse, but it is an explanation. We need to find a way to
play without Jordan and help our struggling players back to form. The fact that
we are playing at home and have been in Israel in recent days will certainly
help. I haven’t lost my way or control of the team, we have simply experienced a
difficult period and now we need to pull out of it.”
One of the players
expected to play a bigger role since Farmar’s departure was Theo
However, the 34-year-old Greek playmaker has been a complete
non-factor in recent weeks, playing a combined 34 minutes and scoring a total of
six points in Tel Aviv’s last six Euroleague games.
“It is not nice that
you keep asking me why certain players aren’t playing,” Blatt said. “In a normal
place I wouldn’t be asked this. I decide who plays and who
Istanbul has also lost an NBA player since Maccabi beat it
79-72 when the teams met in Turkey earlier this season, with Ersan Ilyasova
returning to the Milwaukee Bucks.
However, Ilyasova was far less
significant to Efes than Farmar was to Maccabi, averaging only 9.5 points and
5.5 rebounds per game.
Istanbul has won three straight games since
beginning the group with a 2-3 record, and despite struggling with injuries,
coach Ufuk Sarica believes his team can avenge its loss to the yellow-and-blue
“Both teams have qualified for the Top 16, but this is an
important game for ranking in the group,” Sarica said.
“Tel Aviv is one
of the hardest away courts throughout Europe. We absolutely must be smart and
put all our energy on the court to win. This time we have got some
Ersan Ilyasova’s left and Tarence Kinsey and Esteban Batista’s
injuries will make it difficult for us. We must play a very good basketball game
to win on Thursday night.”
Since Farmar’s departure, Keith Langford has
become Maccabi’s top scorer, but Blatt will need the American to share the ball
more than usual and bring his teammates into play if Tel Aviv is to win on
One player who has suffered from Farmar’s exit more than others
has been Lior Eliyahu.
“When you play three times a week you are going to
have some better periods and some worse ones,” Eliyahu said.
this is a great opportunity to get back on track. We have struggled with scoring
recently, but we have been working on that. Hopefully our shots will go in on
Thursday and the big-men will get into the game like they know how to and
everything will be fine.”
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