(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After winning six straight games to surge up to second place in Euroleague Top
16 Group F, Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to cap its remarkable resurgence with a
victory at Spanish powerhouse Barcelona on Thursday night.
A win in
Catalonia will not only secure Maccabi’s progress to the quarterfinals, but will
also guarantee the yellow and- blue home-court advantage in the best-of-five
However, a defeat to Barca, which comfortably leads the
group with a 12-1 record, will leave Maccabi in danger of dropping all the way
down to fifth place in the standings and completely missing out on the
A Tel Aviv (8-5) loss combined with an Olympiacos (8- 5) home
defeat to Khimki Moscow (7-6) by less than 12 points and a Caja Laboral Vitoria
(7-6) home win over the slumping Montepaschi Siena (7-6) will result in a
four-way tie for second place in which Maccabi will be ranked last in
head-to-head games, sending it to fifth overall in Group F.
defeat combined with an Olympiacos win or victories by Khimki and Siena will see
it finish in third place.
A Tel Aviv loss combined with a Vitoria triumph
and a Moscow win by at least 12 points will see the Israelis advance from fourth
“Barcelona has proven throughout the season that it is the best
team in Europe,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “They are in excellent form and
have everything a team needs to go all the way.
We will need to do
something special to win in Barcelona.
We are in good physical and mental
condition, but we must recognize that we are facing an elite
Barcelona has lost just twice in 23 continental games this season
and has won 11 straight contests. The Spaniards lead the Euroleague in defense
with 67.4 points allowed and also top the league in scoring, tied with Siena
with 80.5 points per game.
Barca will be without the injured Pete Mickeal
on Thursday, but has an exceedingly deep roster that shouldn’t struggle to cope
without the star small forward.
The Catalans beat Maccabi 82-77 in Tel
Aviv in February, the yellow-and-blue’s last Euroleague defeat. Big-man Ante
Tomic scored 18 points, while veteran guards Juan Carlos Navarro and former
Maccabi legend Sarunas Jasikevicius contributed 14 points each, including clutch
baskets which allowed Barca to effectively clinch the win by the end of the
third quarter before a late 10-0 Maccabi run made the final score more
respectable for the Israelis.
Tel Aviv’s Devin Smith wasn’t at his best
in the defeat to Barcelona, but he was named the league’s MVP for the month of
March this week and has arguably been the team’s best player this season. Smith
has scored in double figures in seven straight and 11 of his last 12 Euroleague
games and will have a key role to play once more on Thursday.
facing a game which is vital for us and is insignificant for Barcelona,” said
Maccabi forward Lior Eliyahu, who missed the first game against Barca through
injury and has scored just two points in three games since coming back. “To win
in Barcelona is one of the toughest tasks in European basketball.
have to play an almost perfect game to achieve our goal.”