Euroleague: Maccabi TA hopes to brush off loss

Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to get its Euroleague campaign back on track Thursday night when it visits Lottomatica Roma.

macc tel aviv 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
macc tel aviv 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to get its Euroleague campaign back on track Thursday night when it visits Lottomatica Roma in Game 2 of the Top 16. Tel Aviv crashed to its first home defeat in more than a year last week, losing 79-68 to Tau Vitoria at Nokia Arena. The defeat was a major blow to the Israeli club's pursuit of finishing first in Group D and anything short of a victory on Thursday will be another huge setback for the team. A failure to win could put Maccabi in a considerably worse position and the club's chances of advancing to the next round could take a steep drop. Only the top two teams in the group will qualify for the best-of-three quarterfinal playoffs and with Roma beating Pau-Orthez last week, Thursday's encounter could well turn out to be Tel Aviv's most critical game of the Top 16. "I think we're in good shape and that we have a decent chance of finally winning a game away from home," Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said early Wednesday morning ahead of his team's flight to the Italian capital. "We've been through a very difficult period, but we are still strong." Spahija and his players will meet Roma on Thursday for the third time this season after splitting the previous two meetings in Group B of the regular season. Tel Aviv beat the Italians 78-65 in the third game of the season at Nokia Arena, but lost 88-81 after overtime in Italy. Maccabi has only won one of its previous seven Euroleague road games this season and Spahija is positive his team's hard work in training will finally pay off against Roma. "We are going on this trip in a very good mood. Before the last game, I said that we had a 10-day period of good practices, but we lost. "Our win in our last league game renewed our confidence and I'm happy with the way we're playing right now." Roma's main man, Dejan Bodiroga, who averages 13.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, is doubtful and will be a game-time decision. Lottomatica's American backcourt of David Hawkins (14.6 ppg, 2.8 steals per game) and Mire Chatman (7.6 ppg, 2.4 spg) will pressure Maccabi guards Will Bynum (10.7 ppg, 3.4 turnovers per game), Derrick Sharp (12 ppg) and Goran Jeretin, with the Serbian guard likely to play an increased role on Thursday. "Maccabi is a team that we know well, having played against them in the regular season group stage," Roma coach Jasmin Repesa said. "It's true that we beat them earlier this season, but that by no means gives us any guarantees for Thursday's game. "They also know us well, so it's going to be a very hard game for us, and my players will have to remain concentrated from start to finish." Loukas Mavrokefalidis (7.2 ppg, 5 rebounds per game), Ognjen Askrabic (7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Luca Garri (5.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg) will fight for supremacy in the paint against Maccabi's Nikola Vujcic (16.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.6 apg), Lior Eliyahu (11.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Jamie Arnold (7.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg), with Tel Aviv needing to win that battle to have any chance of victory in Italy. "We are in a good mood. This is a tough road game, but it's a game we know we can win," Sharp said on Wednesday. "It depends on us. We had a couple of bad games, but we're going to bounce back. Everybody is playing well, and hopefully we'll show it on the court on Thursday night."