Crucial home contest for Mac TA vs Roma

Yellow-and-blue must rebound from Barca setback to stay in Euroleague Top 16 hunt; Blatt wary of "Roma's short roster."

Chuck Eidson 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Chuck Eidson 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After falling to Barcelona in its Euroleague Top 16 opener last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt knows anything short of victory against Lottomatica Roma at Nokia Arena on Thursday night will leave his team in serious trouble.
Maccabi saw its nine-game continental winning streak snapped with the 81-71 defeat in Barcelona, but it is still unbeaten at home this season, winning five contests by an average 17.2 points per game.
Roma lost 64-63 at home to Olimpija Ljubljana last week and arrives shorthanded, with guard Luca Vitali sidelined with pneumonia and both Charles Smith and Ali Traore doubtful.
However, Blatt remains wary of the Italians and is hoping to once more see the Maccabi team which dominated European opponents in the regular season.
“We need to be especially cautious of Roma’s short roster. This can often be an advantage rather than a disadvantage,” Blatt said. “In every season you have high and lows, but in good teams the lows aren’t that significant.
I think we experienced such a low in recent weeks. It wasn’t so noticeable because we won all our games other than the one in Barcelona. Nevertheless, we weren’t playing like the Maccabi we saw in the beginning of the season.
“However, we have trained superbly recently and this is the only way to get the team back on track. We want to regain our top form, especially at this crucial stage of the season.”
Maccabi will target two players in particular from Roma, which is currently only in 11th position in the Italian league with a 7-9 record.
Darius Washington is Roma’s only player to average more than 10 points per game in the Euroleague this season, scoring 13.5 per game, and Tel Aviv will be confident of stopping him with superb defender Doron Perkins.
Montenegrin forward Vladimir Dasic led the Italians with 18 points and 11 rebounds last week and his matchup with Lior Eliyahu could decide the game.
“Maccabi is a team with 12 wellcoached players, who have great athletic abilities,” Roma coach Saso Filipovski said. “They play fast basketball and have a great coach in David Blatt, who likes to play different defenses throughout the game. Those changes in defense can confuse the opponent a lot.
“We aren’t entering this game in the best moment since we are practicing roughly with seven players due to injury problems. But despite all this, we travel to Tel Aviv to give our best.”
Despite the loss in Barcelona, there were plenty of positives for Maccabi to take from the game, one of them being the play of Richard Hendrix.
The American forward was rumored to be on his way out of the team just a couple of months ago, but Blatt insisted he stay and Hendrix was one of Tel Aviv’s best players last week, scoring 13 points and taking six rebounds.
“We are expecting a tough game, but this is a home encounter and we need to win it,” he said. “We aren’t under any pressure as we know that if we play our game everything will be fine.”