Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to snap out of slump

Three straight Euroleague defeats has yellow-and-blue in playoff limbo heading into Vitoria duel.

DeAndre Kane (front)  (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
DeAndre Kane (front)
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to keep its lingering Euroleague playoff hopes alive for at least one more week when it visits Baskonia Vitoria on Thursday night.
It was just three weeks ago that Maccabi seemed primed to return to the post-season after a two-year absence, beating Efes Istanbul in Turkey to improve to a 13-12 record with five regular season games to play.
However, three consecutive losses against Khimki Moscow, Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos mean Maccabi no longer has its fate in its own hands.
A victory in Spain on Thursday will move Tel Aviv within a game of Vitoria, which leapfrogged the yellow-and-blue into eighth place in the standings thanks to its five-game winning streak combined with Maccabi’s slump.
But even should Neven Spahija’s team register an upset in Vitoria, it will need Baskonia to suffer a shock home defeat to rock-bottom Efes next Thursday to be back in control of its destiny ahead of its visit to Valencia in Spain in its final regular season game a day later. Two Maccabi wins combined with two Vitoria losses is the only scenario in which the yellow-and-blue will move up to eighth position and secure the questionable honor of facing rampant No.
1 seed CSKA Moscow in a best-of-five series.
“What I can tell you is that we prepared for the game and we are ready. But what will happen I can’t predict,” said Spahija, who has come under increased fire following his team’s poor run of results.
Maccabi snapped a four-game losing streak over all competitions by defeating Ironi Nahariya 95-86 in BSL action on Sunday.
Tel Aviv has won only three of 10 games over the last five weeks and has a dismal 2-8 record in its past 10 continental road contests. The team’s only wins came against the lowly Olimpia Milano and Efes, with Maccabi being outplayed in its defeats by a humbling average of 16.9 points per game.
“First of all it doesn’t depend only us.
This game depends on them,” said Spahija ahead of Thursday’s showdown. “Lately they are playing amazing basketball, especially defensively. And they are playing their most important game of the season in front of their crowd. But we will give our best and we will see what will happen.”
Maccabi beat Baskonia 74-68 when the teams met at Yad Eliyahu Arena earlier this season. But that clash was back in October and just a week later coach Pablo Prigioni was sacked and replaced by Pedro Martinez, who has transformed the side, with Vitoria also winning its past eight Spanish league encounters.
“I think that the team is confident now and our results are very good lately,” said Martinez after Baskonia defeated Barcelona 86-73 on the road in Euroleague play last Friday.
“We have to calm down and know that if we want to play at a good level, we have to start with great defense, aggressiveness and passing the ball well. We are in two strong competitions and we should be happy after our wins, but as a competitive team we always have to focus on the next game. We have to keep following our road.”