Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Panathinaikos 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Essentially, Maccabi Tel Aviv can afford to lose to Panathinaikos in Game 4 of
the Euroleague quarterfinals at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
with a 2-1 lead in the best-of- five series, Maccabi would still remain in
contention to reach the Final Four even if it falls to the defending Euroleague
However, Maccabi will be approaching Thursday’s showdown as if
it is the series decider, understanding that a Game 5 in Athens is something it
must avoid at all costs.
Maccabi toughed out a 65-62 win in Game 3 on
Tuesday, holding on to a 13- point halftime lead (41-28) despite only scoring 24
points after the break.
Just one week ago, Maccabi entered Game 2 with
its back against the wall after being humbled in the series opener.
an unforgettable 94-92 overtime win in Athens tied the series and Tuesday’s
victory means Maccabi suddenly finds itself as the favorite against the team
that beat it in the Euroleague final last season.
“This game is critical
for both us and Pao,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said on Wednesday.
fact that we will have to go back to Greece if we lose makes this game important
enough for us, as does the fact that we find ourselves within one win of the
“There have been some serious battles in the series so far
and I expect the same on Thursday.”
After seeing Panathinaikos score 14
three-pointers in Game 2, while committing just 10 turnovers, Maccabi set itself
a goal of shutting down the Greeks from beyond the arc and scoring more points
on the break.
Blatt’s plan worked to perfection in the first half on
Tuesday, and despite his team’s offensive struggles after halftime, the coach
will be delighted if Pao only hits three of 14 threes and commits 16 turnovers
once more on Thursday.
“Just like Game 2, there is also a special dynamic
to Game 4 because it is less than 48 hours after the previous encounter,” Blatt
said. “We are playing one of the best teams in Europe and one of the beat
tacticians in Europe and we will have to adjust accordingly.
“Pao has its
back against the wall, but if we don’t win they will have the advantage ahead of
Pao coach Zeljko Obradovic was furious with his team’s play in
Game 2, especially in the first half.
“Maccabi started Game 2 very well
and we played very bad in the first half,” he said. “It is difficult to
understand why we made so many turnovers, and that’s what made Maccabi take the
“In the second half we played much better. We missed some open
shots, but this is basketball.
“It will be a very difficult game for both
teams on Thursday. Ohayon played very well in the last two games. We will
need to find a way to stop him in the next game.”
After only scoring
three points in 17 minutes in Game 1, Ohayon has been nothing short of
sensational, averaging 13.5 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals in
the last two wins.
“We implemented our game plan on Tuesday, but that win
is already in the past,” an exhausted Ohayon said after Game 3. “The only thing
on our mind is finding a way to win on Thursday.”