(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After a defeat of historic proportions, Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to regain its
composure and turn Game 1 of the Euroleague quarterfinals into a distant memory
when it faces Real Madrid in Game 2 in Spain on Friday night.
79-53 humbling in the series opener on Wednesday was its heaviest Euroleague
defeat since 1991 when Tel Aviv was thrashed 101-67 by Barcelona in the Final
Four semifinals in Paris.
Maccabi’s 53 points were the fewest ever scored
by the team in a Euroleague game, with March 1969 marking the last time Tel Aviv
finished a game in any continental competition with less points.
Maccabi needs to just think back to last season’s quarterfinals to feel slightly
more optimistic ahead of Game 2, with the yellow-and-blue being outplayed in a
93-73 defeat to Panathinaikos in the series opener, only to claim a 94-92
overtime win in Athens two days later.
Tel Aviv got Game 1 in Madrid off
to an ideal start, leading 26-14 early in the second quarter. However, Real
scored 24 of the remaining 25 points in the first half and steamrolled David
Blatt’s men after the break.
“It is what it is,” said a philosophical
Blatt. “We experienced a bad night and that is putting it lightly. However,
Friday is a new day. Unfortunately, we have experience in these types of
situations and we will use that.
“We are playing a team that is stronger
than us. I said that before the series began and I wasn’t doing so to lower the
expectations,” added Blatt, who admitted he rested his starters in the fourth
period ahead of Game 2.
“We are the underdog. However, we can play a lot
better than we did in Game 1. They scored 79 points, which is what they’ve
averaged this season. We only managed 53 points. We need to score more points
and control the rebound and the ball better or we will not be able to win
Maccabi didn’t even have a single player in double figures on
Wednesday, with Ricky Hickman and Shawn James leading the team with nine points
each. Tel Aviv hit just 34 percent (19-of-56) of its field goal attempts and was
out-rebounded 44- 28 while committing 14 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Real’s Rudy
Fernandez was named as the MVP for Game 1 of the playoffs with a performance
index rating of 22 in just 25 minutes. He scored 15 points and took six rebounds
for Madrid, which connected on 50 percent of its shots from three-point range
(11-of-22) and grabbed 17 offensive boards.
“It was so important for us
to win the first game,” said Fernandez. “This is an important step and it was
great to do it this way. The next game on Friday will be a new game for both
teams. I’m sure Maccabi will approach the game in a different way. The key to
this victory was defense.
If we can continue this kind of defensive work,
it will be easier going forward.”
After a superb run during which he
scored in double digits in Maccabi’s past eight games, Devin Smith also lost his
way in Madrid, ending the night with just seven points and zero
“We made too many mistakes in defending Real’s three-point
shooting and the fast break, but also in rebounding, which is just effort,” said
“We need to be stronger on the boards and that’s something we can
correct pretty easily because we can control our effort level. This is a series
and the next game will be different. We need to learn from our mistakes and make
sure we are ready.”