Basketball: Maccabi aims to come back from BSL loss

Olympiacos visits Tel Aviv tonight in crucial European enounter.

Maccabi 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A week after one of its best games in recent memory, but also just four days removed from one of its worst showings of the season, Maccabi Tel Aviv faces Olympiacos on Thursday in a crucial Euroleague encounter at the Nokia Arena. Maccabi was nothing short of outstanding in its 19-point thrashing of Real Madrid last week, but on Sunday Bnei Hasharon humbled Tel Aviv on its home floor and plunged the team back into emergency mode. The biggest difference between Maccabi's last two performances was the contributions of Nikola Vujcic and Terence Morris. Against Olympiacos Vujcic's superb court vision and Morris's resilient display on both ends of the court were vital to their team's runaway victory. Against Bnei Hasharon, however, Vujcic was rested throughout the game as a precaution and Morris was limited by foul trouble to just three points and 21 minutes. A good game by both players on Thursday will almost definitely ensure a victory, which will take Maccabi a step closer to securing a place in a quarterfinal playoff. Tel Aviv defeated Olympiacos in Athens 75-67 in its first game of the Top 16, recording what has proven to be the only road win in Group F to date. That important victory in Greece means Maccabi will secure itself a last eight berth simply by winning its two remaining home games and positions the team perfectly to claim top spot in the group and home court advantage in a best-of-three quarterfinal tie. "Olympiacos has made special preparations for this game because it needs to win to boost its chances of claiming a quarterfinal berth," Maccabi coach Tzvika Sherf said on Wednesday. "Olympiacos plays a different style of basketball to the rest of the teams in the group. "They play much slower, trying to keep the score low and their defense is very aggressive and strong." Of the fitness of his roster, Sherf said: "In the last couple of days Vujcic trained and he will be able to play. Morris, Vonteego Cummings and Yotam Halperin have some nagging injuries, but they will play. We have a game plan and we must be aggressive if we want to win." Olympiacos won for the first time in six Euroleague games last week, beating Zalgiris Kaunas 86-84 in overtime. After the sacking of Israeli coach Pini Gershon last month, the Greek team, which will be playing yet again without the injured Lithuanian Arvydas Macijauskas on Thursday, is slowly finding its form under new coach Panagiotis Giannakis, who can't wait to guide his side at the Nokia Arena. "We've come here with the intention of playing well, but it will be tough against the Maccabi fans," Giannakis said on Wednesday. "The supporters, however, motivate us, and we will be giving our best, trying to win. "I think that our weakness has been that we haven't played aggressive enough so far. We know what to expect in Tel Aviv. "Very few teams have managed to escape from Maccabi's home court in the past and we have to control the rhythm of the game and stay calm and concentrated."