Maccabi Tel Aviv's David Blatt 370 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Israel on Friday afternoon dejected yet proud after
missing out on the Euroleague Final Four in heart-breaking fashion hours
Maccabi fought back from a double-digit deficit twice in Game 5
of its quarterfinal series against Panathinaikos in Athens, only to fall to an
86- 85 defeat and fail to advance the Final Four for the third time in four
“We have reached all our goals this season and we played superbly
in this series and have nothing to be ashamed about,” Maccabi coach David Blatt
said at Ben- Gurion Airport on Friday.
“We feel we missed a chance to
wrap up the series in Game 4 at Nokia Arena, but it is very hard to beat
Panathinaikos three times in a row in such a short time. We could have won that
game and we could have won on Thursday, but we need to come to terms that we
lost despite doing our very best.”
The yellow-and-blue seemed to be
heading to certain defeat after trailing by nine points (78-69) with 2:23
remaining in Game 5, but the visitors scored 16 points over the next two minutes
and 14 seconds, with three Guy Pnini free throws with 9.8 seconds to play tying
the score at 85- 85.
However, reigning Euroleague MVP Dimitris
Diamantidis hit one of two free throws with five seconds left and Tel Aviv
failed to get another shot off, with Tal Burstein being mobbed at half-court and
Maccabi’s pleas for a foul going unanswered.
“My problem with the
refereeing wasn’t necessarily with one particular call, but with the fact that I
didn’t feel comfortable with the way the game was being called throughout,”
Maccabi will now reluctantly turn its attention to the BSL
and Adriatic League, starting with Sunday’s local league game against Hapoel
Tel Aviv will also host the Adriatic League Final Four at
the end of April, but while it still has unfinished business this season, plans
are already being made for 2012/13.
According to his current agreement,
Maccabi will have to pay Sofoklis Schortsanitis over a million dollars to retain
his services for next season, but it has no intention on doing so and will only
consider handing him an extension if he agrees to take a cut in pay.
Aviv is desperate to hold on to Richard Hendrix, but his asking price has soared
in recent weeks and his future remains unresolved, as does that of David Blu,
who is considering retirement.
Demond Mallet and Theo Papaloukas will in
all likelihood leave in the summer, while Devin Smith, Guy Pnini, Yogev Ohayon
and Lior Eliyahu will all continue. A question mark still hangs over the future
of Keith Langford, Shawn James and Milan Macvan, who spent this season on loan
at Partizan Belgrade.
Also Sunday in the BSL, Jerusalem (12-9), which
defeated Gilboa (14-7) 69-67 on the road last week for its fourth win in five
games, hosts third-placed Maccabi Rishon Lezion (13-8), while Hapoel Holon
(12-9) visits Ironi Ashkelon (10-10) and Barak Netanya hosts Maccabi Haifa.