Lior Eliyahu 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After a tumultuous few days away from the court, Maccabi Tel Aviv will try to
turn its focus back to business when it visits Prokom Gdynia of Poland on
Maccabi currently leads Euroleague Group B with a 6-2
record, holding the tiebreaker over Unicaja Malaga.
Tel Aviv snapped a
two-game losing streak last week, returning to winning ways in the Euroleague
with a 78-73 victory over Chalon-Sor-Saone. It climbed back to the top of the
standings after Malaga was thrashed 91-72 at Montepaschi Siena.
in its remaining regular season encounters will see the yellow-and-blue enter
the Top 16 as a group winner, with Maccabi having the possibility to wrap up
first place with a game to spare should it triumph in Poland and both Malaga and
Maccabi is 5-0 all-time against Gdynia, winning by an average
margin of 26.4 points, including a 93-62 blowout victory earlier this
Perhaps that is just as well, considering the distractions David
Blatt’s men had to deal with in the build up to Thursday’s game.
seemed to be well after Maccabi beat Hapoel Tel Aviv 91-72 in the first derby in
over six years on Sunday.
However, the result of the showdown was soon
forgotten after video footage showed Maccabi captain Guy Pnini calling Hapoel
player Jonathan Skjoldebrand a Nazi, among other profanities.
incident was captured during a trash-talk exchange and Maccabi announced on
Monday night that it had suspended Pnini until further notice, stripped him of
the captaincy and also fined him NIS 100,000.
Lior Eliyahu will replace
Pnini as captain starting from Thursday and coach Blatt is hoping that the
recent commotion will not have any bearing on the Prolom game.
have dealt with something unexpected over the last couple of days and I hope
that we will be able to snap out of it,” Blatt said. “I hope we come back on
Friday with big smiles across our faces, looking forward to wrapping up first
place in the group next week.”
Despite facing the group’s bottom team,
which has won just one of eight games so far, Blatt is doing his best to keep
his players wary of Thursday’s encounter.
“We are exactly in the
situation we wanted to be in thanks to Siena’s win over Malaga last week,” Blatt
said. “Now we have the option of clinching first place by winning our remaining
“We now face what is in theory the weakest team in the group, but
we must remember that they beat Alba Berlin at home and almost beat the Germans
on the road last week.
“Prokom has nothing to lose, while we have
everything to lose. We are not going to take this game lightly.”