maccabi 224 .
(photo credit: asaf kliger )
After falling to two humbling defeats in its first two road games of the Euroleague season, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Armani Jeans Milano on Thursday night in what appears to be an ideal opportunity to finally record an away win.
Maccabi (3-2) lost to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and Unicaja Malaga by an average 20.5 points, but will nevertheless enter Thursday's encounter in a positive mood.
The team's steady improvement over recent weeks and Milano's poor start to the season have got Tel Aviv coach Oded Katash brimming with confidence.
"If we play a smart game we should win. Milano doesn't scare me," Katash said on Wednesday. "They have a limited roster which forces them to play in a certain way that suits our style. Every road game is tough and we will have to be composed to claim a victory."
Milano (1-4) won its first Euroleague game of the season last week, defeating Aris Thessaloniki on the road 77-70.
The Italians, however, have already lost twice at home in European play and have a 4-7 record in their local league.
"This is a game with great prestige against one of the historic teams of European basketball," Milano coach Attilio Caja told the Euroleague website. "We are looking more confident after two victories away in a row, in Thessaloniki and Udine in the Italian League, and we have to prove to ourselves that we can continue this way.
"The hard work we are doing day by day is giving us great results and playing a great team like Maccabi is very exciting. They have a deep roster and many weapons, great athletes inside and talented players on the perimeter like Bynum, Sharp, Halperin and Bluthenthal. They're all very dangerous for us."
Milano has a relatively short roster, which is built around seven players. Each of those players averages at least 10 points per game and between 25 and 32 minutes on court.
Massimo Bulleri (13.3 ppg, 1.8 apg) and veteran American Melvin Booker (12.5 ppg, 4 apg) lead the team from the backcourt and will be a constant nuisance for Tel Aviv's defense.
Ansu Sesay (12.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg), 19-year-old Danilo Gallinari (12 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Reece Gains (11.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Travis Watson (10.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and Dusan Vukcevic (10 ppg) give the hosts a balanced, yet slightly restricted roster.
Maccabi's assistant coach Guy Goodes believes his team knows how to exploit Milano's weaknesses.
"We must focus on our rebounding and make sure we don't allow our opponents to score any easy baskets," Goodes told The Jerusalem Post. "Milano has a short roster and we need to be aggressive throughout the game so that its players tire towards the end of the encounter."
Maccabi is last in the Euroleague in free throw shooting (59 percent) and is the fourth worst team from beyond the arc (30%).
"Our players know how to shoot from the free throw line and from three point range and I believe that they will start to score better, now that they're no longer hampered by the early season pressure," Goodes added.
Since the injury to Nikola Vujcic two games into Maccabi's continental campaign Katash has been waiting for one of his role players to step up and improve his play.
Yotam Halperin has long been tipped to develop into a star player, but despite leading the team in minutes played (26 mpg) and assists (3.6 apg), he's still failing to meet the high expectations.
"We're still nowhere near playing on the road at the level we've been playing at home," Halperin said.
"The game will be tough, but we need to return with an away win. I believe that we'll show that we're a good team not only at home, but also on the road."
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