Euroleague: Resurgent Mac TA heads to Croatia

Since Tzvika Sherf took charge of the team two-and-a-half weeks ago, Maccabi has won all four of its games.

Mac TA celebrate 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Mac TA celebrate 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to build on its impressive recent form when its visits Cibona Zagreb on Thursday night. Since Tzvika Sherf took charge of the team two-and-a-half weeks ago, Maccabi has won all four of its games, including two Euroleague encounters against Efes Pilsen and Unicaja Malaga. The side displayed the urgency and intensity it so desperately lacked under former coach Oded Katash against Pilsen and Malaga, out-rebounding its opponents and holding them to a mere 68 points. Tel Aviv defeated Cibona 80-74 when the teams first met this season at the Nokia Arena and the Croatians have only won two of their six Euroleague games since. Sherf was, nevertheless, wary of Cibona on Wednesday and is expecting a tough game at the Drazen Petrovic Center. "We can't underestimate Cibona," Sherf said. "I believe that to claim a road win in the Euroleague you must control the tempo, commit a minimum of turnovers and play tough defense. We more or less know their style. They like to run and shoot from outside. Cibona's arena is a very difficult place to win at, but we're going there to gain another victory." Zagreb snapped a four-game losing streak last week, defeating AJ Milano 72-63 behind Chris Warren's 27 points and Larry Ayuso's 16 points. Warren (16.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Ayuso (14.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg) have led Cibona all year long and are the team's only players to average more than 30 minutes a game. Veteran playmaker Damir Mulaomerovic returns after three games out and Cibona coach Ivan Sunara believes he can make the difference for his side. "The return of Mulaomerovic is a big thing for us and it is up to us to see what we can get from him at the moment," Sunara told the Euroleague Web site. "We respect Maccabi, but it is also a great challenge for us because I think they are currently playing the best basketball in Europe. Their roster is really deep and it is hard to defend against them. I think the most important thing in this game is will and motivation. With the help of our fans we can win against any team in our arena." Maccabi's Croatian center Nikola Vujcic will play in the Euroleague for the first time in more than two months on Thursday after making his return from injury in the BSL on Sunday, when he played for 12 minutes. Tel Aviv captain Derrick Sharp, who averaged more than 20 minutes per game under Katash, has played less than five minutes in the Euroleague since Sherf's arrival, with the new coach explaining that the recent incidents at the club took a toll on his form. Sharp wouldn't speak of himself on Wednesday and claimed that the next step for the team is to play well on a consistent basis. "It takes time to develop a killer instinct. We've seen glimpses of it, but it has got to be more consistent. We need to try and make it a habit and not something that happens here and there, and we're working on it," Sharp said. "Cibona are going to pack the gym and they're playing for something. They have a good chance to make it to the Top 16, so it's going to be a tough game."