Euroleague: Fizer to return for Mac as Olympiacos visits TA

Yellows need a win to give themselves a reasonable chance of avoiding a tough draw in the Top-16.

Derrick Sharp 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Derrick Sharp 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv renews its Euroleague campaign on Thursday night and must defeat Olympiacos at the Nokia Arena to give itself a reasonable chance of avoiding a tough draw in the Top-16. Next week Maccabi visits Unicaja Malaga in the final game of the regular season, and even though top spot in the group seems to be out of reach, the team still needs to win against Olympiacos and Malaga to clinch second or third place in the standings. The top four in each of the four six-team groups qualifies for the Top-16 Thursday's game will see former Maccabi stars Nikola Vujcic and Yotam Halperin play their first official game in Tel Aviv since leaving the club in the summer. "This is a special game and I have special feelings, but I'm experienced enough to manage this kind of situation and try to play my game and help my team," Vujcic told the Euroleague Web site. "We played a friendly game in the preseason and this might help me and my team. When Maccabi plays at home it's at least 30-percent better compared to the away games." Olympiacos thrashed Maccabi 84-65 when they met in November in Greece, Tel Aviv's worst defeat of the Euroleague season. After losing his first continental game in charge of the team against Malaga, Pini Gershon guided the side to three consecutive Euroleague wins and will be hoping to see some of the fruits of almost three full weeks of training in Thursday's game. "We made it to the Top-16 like we wanted, but now we need to move up the standings to have a better chance in the next stage, and for that we need to win this week," said Gershon, who spent a season-and-a-half as Olympiacos head coach, before being replaced by current Reds coach Panagiotis Giannakis midway through last season. Marcus Fizer will play his first game for Maccabi on Thursday since recovering from the knee injury he suffered at Olympiacos last February. "Coaching against my former team, Olympiacos, will be something special, but two minutes after the tip-off it will feel just like any other game," Gershon said. "It will be a very special night, also because of the return of Marcus Fizer, and obviously to see Nikola Vujcic and Yotam Halperin wearing red on their former home court. I'm sure the atmosphere will be very tense, in a good way. "Last season, Olympiacos won in Tel Aviv, and they have beaten Maccabi already this season, but this is a very important game, and we'll need to play very well to get this win." It still remains to be seen how much the recovering Fizer can help Maccabi, but the American forward is nevertheless desperate to get on court on Thursday. "The fact that my injury happened when we played in Pireaus doesn't make me hold a grudge against Olympiacos, but in a way it's like I'm closing a circle," Fizer said. "I worked very hard to recover from this injury, and I hope to bring my game to the court and help Maccabi win. I'm eager to play already and be part of the team on court."