Maccabi Tel Aviv 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Basketball may well be a game of four quarters, but for Maccabi Tel Aviv it is
the first periods which have decided the fate of its Euroleague encounters so
far this season.
Maccabi was whitewashed 31-11 in the first 10 minutes of
its Euroleague opener at Caja Laboral Vitoria in what turned out to be its only
continental defeat of the season to date.
In its five games since, Tel
Aviv has outscored its opponents in the opening quarter by an average 10.4
points (117- 65), going on to win each and every one of those contests on its
way to the top of Group A.
Maccabi goes to Zalgiris Kaunas on Thursday
night knowing another fast start, and subsequently a sixth straight victory,
will go a long way to ensuring it ends the regular season in first
“The game against Zalgiris is very tough,” said Maccabi coach
David Blatt, whose team beat the Lithuanians 86-70 at Nokia Arena five weeks
“I’ve been at Maccabi long enough to remember the difficult games
we’ve had in Kaunas and the fact that we lost there more times than we won.
Zalgiris has yet to lose a home game this season and that tells you all you need
to know of how difficult this game will be.”
After claiming 10 straight
victories in all competitions, Maccabi’s winning streak came to surprising end
at the hands of Bnei Hasharon at Nokia Arena on Sunday night.
Hasharon came back from an early deficit to defeat Tel Aviv 91-88, handing the
yellow-and-blue its first loss of the BSL season and a reality check after an
“We played poorly against Bnei Hasharon and they played
great,” explained Blatt, whose team leads the Euroleague with 81.5 points per
“That doesn’t happen every day. It wasn’t a nice feeling and it
even hurt, but we need to know how to take the good with the bad and hopefully
there will continue to be very little bad this season.”
The coach is
confident his players will quickly rebound from Sunday’s
“My players haven’t lost their confidence or will to win,
which is something that can happen after disappointments,” Blatt said. “This
season has so far been filled with highs and I was pleased to see that they are
handling the defeat well. I was happy the team almost snatched the win from Bnei
Hasharon towards the end. No one gives up in this team and we fight until the
Zalgiris enters Thursday’s game on the back of its second
Euroleague loss of the season, a 68-62 defeat at Partizan Belgrade last
However, in its three home games to date, Kaunas has stopped its
opponents on 68 points or less, and Aco Petrovic’s team has also proven it can
score by outgunning Virotia 92-88 in Spain.
“I know Maccabi coach David
Blatt very well from my time in Russia. I had many battles against his teams and
it’s nothing new for me,” Petrovic said.
“Our sixth player this time will
be our fans. They are simply great. We have to remember that Maccabi always
plays better at home. However, this will be another hard game. I hope that this
time we will want to win more than we did in Israel.
Victory is a real
possibility. We just have to concentrate for the full 40 minutes.”
Burstein, who has played an overlooked role in Maccabi’s recent success, said
the team will take the loss to Bnei Hasharon in its stride. “It is always tough
to play in Kaunas, especially when Zalgiris is in good shape,” Burstein said.
“We never thought we would go through the season without a defeat. It is only
natural we will occasionally lose and we are not getting too worked up about
We are facing a young and talented team in Zalgiris so we will have
to be at our best both defensively and offensively to get the win.”