MACCABI TEL AVIV 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv can secure a first-place finish in Group A of the Euroleague
with a victory over Partizan Belgrade at Nokia Arena on Thursday night, but
coach David Blatt has already got one eye on the Top 16.
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its place in the next stage with a 71-68 victory at Zalgiris Kaunas last week,
its sixth straight win. Blatt’s team has allowed just 66 points per game during
its winning streak, while averaging 80.4 points.
Tel Aviv suffocated
Partizan’s offense in Serbia, winning 67-54 last month, and will be a massive
favorite to triumph over Belgrade at Nokia and clinch a No. 1 seed in the Top 16
draw with two regular season games to spare.
Despite the fact his team’s
continental campaign is going so well, Blatt has no intention on resting on his
laurels and has got his sights set on strengthening his roster ahead of the
start of the Top 16 on January 19.
“We are facing a very critical game
against Partizan because a victory would secure first place and that is a very
important goal which will give us a big advantage down the road,” Blatt
“I’m concerned with the fact that we currently have just 10 players
on our roster. Richard Hendrix’s pneumonia was unexpected, but it is very
significant and we are still thinking of how to boost our roster. We have yet to
find the right player and we will have to be patient.
“This season we
have put an emphasis on the character of the players we bring in. We decided not
to sign players with a bad character even if it ends up costing us on court.
Maccabi players were involved in too many incidents in the past and we want to
improve the club’s image not just as a basketball team, but as a representative
Blatt is especially desperate to sign another big-man, and
the latest name to be mentioned in connection with the yellow-and-blue is
Serbian Milan Macvan.
The 21-year-old center, who plays for Hemofarm
Vrsac, is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in European basketball and
is believed to have a release clause in his contract.
In the meantime,
Blatt will have to hope Yaniv Green can come up with the goods and play solidly
as Sofoklis Schortsanitis’s backup in the absence of Hendrix.
Eliyahu might also be required to play as center at certain stages, with
Belgrade presenting an especially deep front court, which includes the likes
Nathan Jawai, Rasko Katic and power forward James Gist.
Maccabi in Tel Aviv last season on its way to a 3-1 series win in the Euroleague
quarterfinal playoffs, but only two Belgrade starters from that series – Dusan
Kecman and Jan Vesely – remain with the team, and Maccabi’s Guy Pnini isn’t even
thinking of revenge.
“We are not looking for revenge for last season
because we got that with the win in Belgrade,” Pnini said. “The game against
Partizan is important to us because we want to finish top of the group. We will
do everything to display the basketball we know we can play.”
AVIV held Partizan Belgrade to just 54 points when the team’s met in Serbia last
month, with even forward Lior Eliyahu contributing on the defensive end,
blocking Vladimir Lucic (above). The clubs face off again tonight in Tel Aviv.
On TV: Partizan Belgrade at Maccabi Tel Aviv (live on
Channel 10 at 9 p.m.)