Maccabi Tel Aviv back on track with Ness Ziona triumph

Yellow-and-blue returns to winning ways and remains on course to clinch first place.

Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Sylven Landesberg had 13 points in his team’s 86-74 win over Ironi Ness Ziona at Yad Eliyahu Arena, May 6, 2015. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Sylven Landesberg had 13 points in his team’s 86-74 win over Ironi Ness Ziona at Yad Eliyahu Arena, May 6, 2015.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv is on the verge of wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs after beating Ironi Ness Ziona 86-74 at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Wednesday night.
The yellow-and-blue needs just one win from its final two regular season games or a Hapoel Jerusalem loss in one of its remaining contests to secure first place in the standings ahead of the post-season.
After losing just three of its first 26 league games, Maccabi dropped to its third defeat in four contests on Sunday, falling 87-78 to Maccabi Haifa.
Coach Guy Goodes was still without the suspended Sofoklis Schortsanitis and the injured Brian Randle and Alex Tyus on Wednesday, but an improved defensive showing in the second half ensured the team returned to winning ways as it looks to gather momentum for the playoffs.
Devin Smith led Maccabi with 19 points and 12 rebounds, with Jeremy Pargo adding 17 points and nine assists and Jake Cohen finishing with 15 points and nine boards.
“We have to do a better job and we have to clean up some things,” said Smith. “But we are playing a little different now without a true center. We have got to continue and improve over the next few days and finish the regular season off strong.”
Smith didn’t seem too concerned with the team’s erratic play.
“You have ups and downs in the season but we have to keep our head up high and improve our game,” he explained.
Maccabi took a four-point lead (24-20) into the second quarter on Wednesday and remained ahead until the break, leading 47-40 at the interval.
Ness Ziona closed within four points at one stage (67-63), but the yellow-and-blue remained in control throughout the second half and ultimately cruised to a morale boosting victory.
The battle for playoff qualification and seeding continues on Thursday, with plenty still to be decided entering the final stretch of the regular season.
Only two games separate Hapoel Holon (16-15) in fourth place in the standings and Bnei Herzliya (14-17) in ninth.
Herzliya visits Holon on Thursday, with both teams desperate for a win for different purposes.
Herzliya still has its fate in its own hands, with victories over Holon and Hapoel Tel Aviv in its regular season finale on Sunday to book it a playoff berth.
However, a defeat to Holon combined with a Hapoel Tel Aviv win over the relegated Hapoel Gilboa/Galil will already end Herzliya’s post-season hopes on Thursday.
Holon is fighting for a place in the top four, which will secure home-court advantage in the best-of-five quarterfinals series.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion, which has played an extra game, is currently in third place with a 17-15 record, with Hapoel Eilat and Maccabi Haifa tied with Holon at 16-15.
Eilat hosts Maccabi Ashdod, which has already secured its survival and no longer has anything to play for.
Also Thursday, Jerusalem welcomes Haifa. Jerusalem saw its seven-game winning streak snapped with a surprise 100-96 defeat at Herzliya on Monday.
Haifa looks to be hitting top form at a perfect timing, winning its past four games.