Blatt’s boys look to end BSL losing streak

Mac TA's win in Euroleague has further complicated the yellow-and-blue’s situation with three more games to play in the Top 16.

Hickman and James of Maccabi Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hickman and James of Maccabi Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
You would have thought that Maccabi Tel Aviv’s position in Euroleague Top 16 Group F would have become clearer with its fourth straight win on Thursday night.
However, Maccabi’s 80-79 victory over Khimki Moscow combined with other results in the group, especially Olympiacos’s 68-67 win in Italy over Montepaschi Siena, have further complicated the yellow-and-blue’s situation with three more games to play in the Top 16.
Maccabi knows one thing for sure. Should it win its next three games, it will finish among the group’s top four and advance to the quarterfinals after claiming just two of its first seven contests.
Maccabi improved to 6-5 with Thursday’s victory, with Khimki and Caja Laboral Vitoria owning an identical record and Olympiacos and Siena one game ahead on 7-4.
Tel Aviv visits Olympiacos next week before hosting rock-bottom Besiktas (0-10) and ending its group games with a visit to firstplaced Barcelona (10-1).
Maccabi lost to Olympiacos when the teams first met this season at Nokia, but as the yellow- and-blue only fell by a single point in Israel (78-77), it is set to claim the tiebreaker and overtake the Greeks as long as it wins in Athens.
Tel Aviv, which already has a better head-to-head record against Siena and Caja but not against Khimki, will then host Besiktas in a game it should comfortably claim before visiting Barca. The Catalans will have likely already wrapped up first place in the group by the time Maccabi comes to town, which should at least ensure the yellow-and-blue has an edge when it comes to motivation.
Two wins from its remaining three games will see Tel Aviv advance should other results in the group go according to plan.
However, predicting results in Group F has so far proven to be all but impossible and the only certainty at the moment seems to be that Maccabi’s fate will be decided with the final buzzer of the Top 16.
“We are still far from securing our place in the quarterfinals,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt, who received 30 points and one memorable dunk in the clutch from guard Ricky Hickman on Thursday. “It is extremely difficult to win in Greece. The win over Khimki does however open up the possibility that we can advance by claiming any two of our next three games.”
In the meantime, Maccabi will be looking to snap its two-game losing streak in the BSL when it visits Maccabi Ashdod on Sunday night.
The yellow-and-blue suffered consecutive defeats in local league play for the first time in almost five years with last week’s 76-70 loss to Barak Netanya. However, with first place in the BSL already wrapped up and a visit to Olympiacos coming up, Blatt is set to once more rest his stars as much as possible.
There will be a full slate of action on Sunday ahead of Monday’s All- Star game in Haifa.
Also Sunday, Netanya hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Eilat visits Bnei Herzliya, Maccabi Haifa goes to Ironi Ashkelon, Maccabi Rishon Lezion welcomes Hapoel Holon and Hapoel Jerusalem plays Hapoel Gilboa/Galil at Malha Arena.