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Maccabi Tel Aviv needs forward Jonah Bolden to be at his best tonight when it hosts Panathinaikos in Euroleague action at Yad Eliyahu Arena..(Photo by: GOKHAN KILINCER)
Panathinaikos pays visit to slumping Mac TA
With Euroleague playoff hopes in peril, yellow-and-blue seeks critical victory to get back to .500.
After losing four of its past six games at Yad Eliyahu Arena over all competitions, Maccabi Tel Aviv is hoping to boost its Euroleague playoff hopes and finally give its fans something to smile about when it hosts Panathinaikos on Thursday night.

Maccabi fell to a 13-14 record, dropping under .500 for the first time this season, following Tuesday’s 87-73 defeat to Fenerbahce in Istanbul. Tel Aviv has lost four of its past five continental games and its supporters have had little to cheer about over the past month.

The fans voiced their displeasure after last week’s dejecting 94-91 defeat to Khimki Moscow, with Maccabi also suffering losses at Yad Eliyahu against Ironi Ness Ziona in the BSL, CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague and Hapoel Holon in the State Cup final over recent weeks.

Maccabi got off to an encouraging start against Fenerbahce, but its early eightpoint (26-18) gap was quickly erased, with the reigning Euroleague champion easily moving through the gears against the helpless yellow-and-blue.

Maccabi lost its place in the top eight in the standings following the setback against Khimki, but still has its fate in its own hands entering its final three regular season games.

A win against Panathinaikos and victories in Spain over Baskonia Vitoria and Valencia in its final two games will see the yellow-and-blue return to the playoffs after two seasons and likely face the questionable honor of playing powerhouse CSKA Moscow in a best-of-five series.

Vitoria, which leapfrogged Maccabi into eighth place, hosted Brose Bamberg late Wednesday and visits Barcelona on Friday ahead of next week’s clash with Maccabi.

Panathinaikos improved to a 16-11 record with Tuesday’s 91-71 victory over Red Star Belgrade, but has won only four of its past 10 games overall and just one of its last five road contests.

Despite the fact his team is about to complete its regular season campaign, Maccabi coach Neven Spahija continues to use the same excuses.

“We are a completely new team with 12 new players. We are still learning to play in the Euroleague,” he said following the loss in Istanbul. “I can say that I’m very proud that my team was in the top eight from the first game until the 25th game and the defeat to Khimki.

“Now with the last two defeats we lost the position, but definitely in the last three games we are going to fight until the end to try and qualify for the playoffs.

I hope that our last home game against Panathinaikos in front of our fans that are always helping us is going to be a first step in that direction.”
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