Yellow-and-blue on verge of Top 16 qualification

Devin Smith (6) (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Devin Smith (6)
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv can effectively secure its place in the Euroleague Top 16 on Thursday night with a win over Alba Berlin at Nokia Arena.
A yellow-and-blue victory, combined with a likely triumph for the unbeaten CSKA Moscow over the 2-5 Cedevita Zagreb on Friday, will book the reigning Euroleague champion’s place in the next stage with two regular season games left.
Maccabi (4-3) is entering Thursday’s contest against Alba (3-4) on the back of equaling its heaviest-ever home loss in continental competition.
Guy Goodes’s side was thoroughly outplayed in an 84-61 thrashing at the hands of CSKA last week, and is still searching for its first Euroleague win at Nokia since opening night.
Maccabi began its title defense by beating Limoges on October 16, but has lost its two Euroleague home games since.
Tel Aviv failed to claim a single homewin over all competitions in November, but got December off to a winning start at Nokia with an 89-73 triumph over Bnei Herzliya on Monday.
Maccabi welcomed Brian Randle back from injury against Herzliya and will be hoping he can emulate his performance from Berlin earlier this season when he finished with 25 points and five rebounds.
Maccabi humbled Alba 84-69 on the road in late October. Berlin has since won three of four Euroleague games, only losing to CSKA on the road.
“Even though Maccabi has already lost at home this season, Nokia Arena remains a strong home court,” said Alba coach Sasa Obradovic.
“After our recent wins we should have a more relaxed approach to this game and make it different from the first one.”
In other local hoops news, the Israel Basketball Association announced on Wednesday that coach Erez Edelstein’s contract will be extended at least until 2016.
Israel qualified for EuroBasket 2015 during the summer in impressive fashion under Edelstein, winning its group for the first time since 2001.
Nevertheless, the IBA took its time in handing Edelstein a new contract, even though it insisted on Wednesday that the 53-year-old was always the only candidate for the job.
The draw for EuroBasket 2015 will be held on December 8 in Disneyland Paris. The championships will take place from September 5-20, serving as a qualification tournament for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The two EuroBasket finalists will book a direct ticket to the Olympics, while the four teams finishing third to sixth will compete in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Israel, which will be playing in the European Championships for a 12th consecutive time, will be a No. 5 seed in the draw.