Euroleague Basketball: Win or bust for Mac TA in Belgrade
Israelis must control the boards against Partizan if they are to take series to a deciding game and keep Final 4 hopes alive.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague season will reach its moment of truth on Thursday night in Belgrade.Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-five quarterfinals series, Maccabi must defeat Partizan Belgrade to keep its continental campaign alive and send the series to a decisive Game 5 in Tel Aviv next week.Tel Aviv was thoroughly outplayed by Partizan in Game 4 on Tuesday, with the final eight-point margin (81-73) not doing Belgrade’s dominance any justice.The hosts opened a 26-17 margin after 10 minutes and never looked back.With more than 20,000 fans pushing them on at the Belgrade Arena, the Serbs never allowed Tel Aviv back into the game, with Maccabi closing to within seven points in the third period, but coming no closer.Despite shooting just 40.3 percent from the field, Partizan controlled Game 3 thanks to its rebounding and defense.Belgrade grabbed 19 offensive boards while forcing 18 turnovers and a repeat of those numbers on Thursday will likely signify the end of Maccabi’s European season.Advertisement“We did not lose because of the fans. We lost because of their 19 offensive rebounds and our 18 turnovers,” Maccabi coach Pini Gershon said.“Both teams will be playing for their entire season on Thursday night. The difference between these two teams is not that big and Maccabi is able to win a game in Belgrade. I am still optimistic.”The barometer of Partizan’s play in the series, and throughout the season, has been American Bo McCalebb.The playmaker orchestrates his coach’s game plan to perfection and shone once more on Tuesday, scoring 18 points, taking seven rebounds and stealing the ball five times.He was also at his best in Belgrade’s victory at the Nokia Arena (12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists), but failed to make a field goal in Game 2, scoring just five points in his team’s 20-point defeat.“Maccabi is a good team, but we took a big step towards the Final Four on Tuesday,” said Partizan coach Dusko Vujosevic, whose club hasn’t reached the Final Four since 1998. “Our fate is in our hands, but Maccabi will fight until the end.”Alan Anderson carried Maccabi in the Top 16, averaging 18 points per game while hitting 71% of his shots from two-point range. However, Partizan has done an excellent job defending the American inthe series so far, holding him to 13 points per game and 31.8% frominside the arc.Nevertheless, Anderson is confident Tel Aviv will be able to tie the series on Thursday and force a decider in Israel next week.“The pressure is on us, but we have coped with these situations in the past and we will do it again,” Anderson said.“We need to fight. We have no other option.“We are just as good as Partizan and we can beat them. We just need to stick to our game plan and do the right things.”
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