Euroleague: Maccabi sees its chances go up in smoke
With Barca's win over Real, TA officially bounced from contention before Berlin match.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv suffered its earliest Euroleague exit in six years on Wednesday night and it wasn't even in action.
Tel Aviv needed Real Madrid to defeat Barcelona on the road on Wednesday to maintain its miniscule chance of advancing to the Euroleague quarterfinals.
However, Real was thrashed 90-79 by Barca at the Palau Blaugrana, and Maccabi's remaining Top 16 games, at Alba Berlin on Thursday and against Barcelona at the Nokia Arena next week, will be for no more than pride.
Maccabi had a season to forget in the Euroleague, struggling time and again against top-level teams and suffering humbling defeats on a regular basis.
Pini Gershon's team lost its last three Top 16 games and the coach now has plenty of time to plan his off-season rebuilding process.
Maccabi enters Thursday's game in Berlin with an especially depleted frontcourt. Yaniv Green is out injured and D'or Fischer is not traveling with the team after suffering facial injuries when being attacked in the early hours of Monday morning at a Tel Aviv nightclub.
Lior Eliyahu, and especially Charles Gaines, will need to step up their play under the baskets for Maccabi to have a good chance chance of winning, but Gershon knows that first and foremost his players will need to be mentally strong to be victorious on Thursday.
"We will try to focus on the game after what the team has been through this week," Gershon said on Wednesday.
"Regardless of the result in Barcelona, we need and want to win in Berlin. I'm sure Alba will have great motivation to win its last home game, and we'll need to try and control the encounter."
Eliyahu, who is averaging 14.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the Euroleague, is also keen to leave recent events behind and knows the 96-65 victory over Alba when the team's met earlier this season is of no significance ahead of Thursday's encounter.
"The last few days weren't easy, but we need to put that aside for a few hours and focus on the important game we have against Alba," Eliyahu said.
"The big margin in the game in Tel Aviv doesn't reflect the real differences between the teams. Alba showed how dangerous they can be, especially on their home court, against great teams. My teammates and I will do the best to get this win, for our fans, for the organization, and to cheer up the ones who had to stay home."
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