Maccabi Tel Aviv will hope to pick up where it left off when it hosts Olympiacos Piraeus in Week 9 of the Euroleague on Thursday.
After struggling out of the starting gate with a 3-3 record, including a home defeat to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, the yellow-and-blue rebounded with strong performances on the road at Barcelona and Prokom Sopot. Victory at home is a must if coach Pini Gershon's squad hopes to catch L. Rytas for first place in Group B.
Maccabi certainly won't be taking Olympiacos lightly, after the Greek league leader surprised the two-time defending Euroleague champs 83-78 in November.
Former Maccabi swingman Quincy Lewis, who spent the 2002/03 season in Israel, led Olympiacos with a seasonhigh 21 points, but the story was the play of big man Sofoklis Schortsanitis in the paint. "Baby Shaq" was good for 13 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes, drawing seven fouls from Maccabi's big men and creating havoc in the paint.
"We did not play our best game in Piraeus and I am sure that at Nokia Arena it will be a different story," Gershon told the Euroleague Web site. "Olympiacos is a much stronger team than they get credit for, with some experienced players and one of Europe's leading coaches. So we can expect a tough and an interesting game. We have made several alterations in our game since Week 2 and we have also learned from our mistakes in that game. I believe that we are going to record our sixth win in the Euroleague this season."
There is no doubt that Maccabi is the stronger side, especially when you take the home-court advantage into consideration. Before losing to L. Rytas, Maccabi had won 10 straight at home. On the other hand Olympiacos has not won on the road in nine tries dating back to 2004.
Olympiacos's best-known player is veteran point guard Tyus Edney, who has faced Maccabi many times over the years. Edney's 12.2 points and 4.1 assists per game are team highs. The match-up pitting Edney against Maccabi's leading scorer, Will Solomon (14.8 ppg), features two players that Benetton Treviso guard Nikos Zisis told The Jerusalem Post are "the quickest players in Europe."
Maccabi is injury-free and well-rested after a bye week in the BSL, which are key factors as the team looks to close in on a spot in the Top 16.