Basketball: Mac TA faces Gershon-less Greeks

Maccabi will be looking for a big win to help it get over its dramatic collapse against Hapoel Jerusalem in the State Cup final last week.

Maccabi TA fans 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
Maccabi TA fans 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
A week after suffering one of the biggest traumas in its history, Maccabi Tel Aviv faces a team in red once more on Thursday night in Greece. Maccabi visits Olympiacos in Athens in its first game of the Euroleague top-16 and will be looking for a big win to help it get over its dramatic collapse against Hapoel Jerusalem's reds in the State Cup final last week. Tel Aviv has won five straight games in the Euroleague since Tzvika Sherf took over as coach, but faces an extremely tricky tie on Thursday. Olympiacos fired Israeli Pini Gershon after losing its last three games in the regular season of European basketball's premier competition and hired Greek national team coach Panagiotis Giannakis in his place. Despite its struggles, however, Olympiacos has one of the strongest rosters in Europe and Giannakis and his players will be eager to prove their quality against Maccabi on Thursday. "Maccabi Tel Aviv is a club that is accustomed to playing at the highest level and sets itself high targets every year," Giannakis told the Euroleague Web site. "Although they are not so consistent when they compete on the road, they definitely have a very good and dangerous team. We have to be determined and control the tempo of the game." Giannakis, who was guided by Sherf in his playing days at Aris Thessaloniki 15 years ago, has beaten the Israeli veteran in the EuroBasket tournament as Greece coach and will be desperate to get the better of his former mentor once more. "Coach Sherf has a great personality and it is not the first time we are facing each other. I believe he has changed Maccabi from the moment he was hired by the club," Giannakis said. Despite being without injured Lithuanian guard Arvydas Macijauskas and center Jake Tsakalidis, Giannakis has still got an extremely deep roster with talented players in every position. The backcourt is led by Lynn Greer (16 ppg, 3.4 rpg. 3.3 apg) and Milos Teodosic (5.6 ppg, 2.1 apg), with forwards Georgios Printezis (7.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Qyntel Woods (11.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), while big men Marc Jackson (15.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Ioannis Bourousis (5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) are guaranteed to keep Tel Aviv's players busy on both ends of the court. "We have to stay unbeaten at home and get as many wins as possible on the road to qualify for the Euroleague playoffs," Bourousis said. "Facing Maccabi, a team with great experience, is never an easy task; they enjoy playing in the open court and they execute really well." Sherf will be without Nikola Vujcic who was injured in training in Greece on Wednesday. The coach said he is wary of the Greeks despite the fact that they qualified for the top-16 as a fourth seed. "We want to win, but we also must keep in mind that Olympiacos is a very good team. They were good before Giannakis took over, and now that they have a new coach we'll also see some new things from them," he said. "Giannakis likes to play slower than Olympiacos played before. Olympiacos was drawn as a fourth seed, but they are anything but a fourth seed team. They only lost one game at home in the regular season and it's going to be another tough game for us."