Maccabi Tel Aviv will face its first real test since the departure of Jordan
Farmar when it visits Real Madrid in a battle for first place in Euroleague
Group C on Thursday night.
Farmar, who led the team in points, rebounds,
assists, steals and minutes through its first seven Euroleague games, could not
help Maccabi avoid defeat in his final showing for the team, with Partizan
Belgrade snapping the yellow-andblue’s five-game continental winning streak with
a 74-71 win last week.
Maccabi has so far managed without Farmar, winning
its games in the Adriatic League and BSL.
However, Real Madrid on the
road presents a completely different proposition for David Blatt’s
Madrid has won three straight Euroleague games to improve to 5-2 and
is tied with Maccabi atop Group C.
In what was perhaps its best game of
the season so far, Tel Aviv edged Real 88-82 at Nokia Arena at the beginning of
November, with Farmar scoring 27 points.
Like Maccabi, Madrid will also
be affected by the end to the NBA lockout, with Serge Ibaka and Rudy Fernandez
to leave the team.
However, while Ibaka has already returned to the US,
Fernandez is stuck in Spain because the Dallas Mavericks failed to file the
necessary paperwork for him to travel and he may well play against Maccabi on
Regardless, Real, which leads the Euroleague with an average of
87.9 points per game, has more than enough weapons to hurt Tel Aviv, something
which Blatt is well aware of.
“We’ve played a few games now without
Jordan Farmar, and we’re looking ahead at how to play with the team we’ve got
now, and with a new signing in the future,” Blatt said.
“Real Madrid is a
very strong team which was formed at the beginning of the season without
Fernandez and Ibaka, though of course with them they’re even
Blatt said Maccabi will take its time in bringing in a
replacement for Farmar and that the club should have a little more money to
spend on a new guard after being awarded $270,000 in compensation from Jeremy
Pargo by a FIBA arbitrator, who ruled that the American had breached his
contract with Tel Aviv.
Shortly after signing a new lucrative contract
following a sensational first-season at the club, Pargo notified the team that
he would like to opt out of the twoyear deal as he wants to play in the
“We don’t have any particular candidate to replace Farmar at the
moment,” Blatt said.
“This isn’t an easy decision from several aspects
and we will not rush into it because the team is doing relatively well as it
This is a time to be cautious and accurate because we have no room
Even without Farmar, Madrid coach Pablo Laso knows Maccabi
will not go down without a fight.
“It’s a game against a great team, with
a solid identity, similar to the one of the team that played the Final Four last
season,” Laso said.
“In the first game they showed all their qualities
and their inside potential with Sofo. In the backcourt they also have great
shooters, players who open the court and have great offensive danger. We will
have to play fine defense to stop them.”
The undoubted surprise package
at Maccabi so far this season has been Yogev Ohayon.
guard agreed to join the yellow-and-blue in the summer, but after seeing how
many other players Maccabi added to its backcourt, he asked to be released from
However, Ohayon was guaranteed that he will be given a
chance to prove his worth and he has shocked everyone with the size of the role
he has carved for himself at Maccabi.
Ohayon has started in six of
Maccabi’s seven Euroleague games, averaging almost 18 minutes per game, the
sixth most on the team.
His averages of 3.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3
assists don’t testify to his contribution to the side so far, but Blatt has put
his faith in Ohayon and his responsibilities are only set to grow following
“We are facing a crucial game for first place in our
group without Farmar,” Ohayon said.
“I hope all of us will give just a
bit more in the game, and we’ll get this important win. When Jordan was with us
we got used to playing a certain way, but now we need to play
Right now we’re just trying to get as many wins as possible
and to play better and better.
“We’ve got a deep bench and every one of
us will need to give that little bit extra.”