Last Euroleague chance for Mac TA against Caja

TA will play 4 of its remaining 6 games away, including extremely tough showdowns at Olympiacos and Barcelona.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Yogev Ohayon 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Yogev Ohayon 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Another week, another must-win game for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Maccabi kept alive its lingering hopes of advancing to the Euroleague quarterfinals by crushing Montepaschi Siena by 31 points last week (92-61). However, its most impressive showing of the season to date will be of little significance should it fail to back it up with a road win at Caja Laboral Vitoria on Thursday night.
Tel Aviv improved to 3-5 with last week’s win, but remained in sixth position in Group F and is still two games out of an elusive place in the top four with six more games to play in the Top 16.
The yellow-and-blue will play four of its remaining six encounters away from Tel Aviv, including extremely tough showdowns at Olympiacos and Barcelona, meaning its chances of progressing will be as good as over should it lose to Vitoria for the second time this season on Thursday.
Caja beat Maccabi 71-70 in Top 16 Game 2 thanks to a basket from Fernando San Emeterio with nine seconds to play, the first of three tight home defeats suffered by Tel Aviv that have seriously complicated its situation.
“This is a very critical game,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “All the games until now have also been important, but it is obvious at this stage that we need to win on the road to have a chance, especially against teams which we lost to at home, like Caja.
“We will have to play like we did against Siena to win. We are in the same mental state as we were before the game against Siena, but the dynamics of a road game are different.”
After missing the team’s last two Euroleague games due to strained ligaments in his left knee, Lior Eliyahu will be back in action on Thursday, but is likely to play a limited role after seeing just eight minutes on court in his return from injury in Sunday’s BSL win over Hapoel Holon.
Vitoria managed to win in Tel Aviv despite a season-low five points from its best player of the campaign and former Maccabi center Maciej Lampe, who has scored in double-figures in every other Top 16 game, averaging 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds.
The job of stopping Lampe will be shouldered mainly by Shawn James, whose averages of 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in the Top 16 are almost identical to those of the Pole.
Maccabi will also likely require another top showing from Devin Smith, who shared the Top 16 Game 8 MVP award last week after tallying 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“We know what we need to do to win and we are going to leave everything out on court,” Smith said. “It is true that the energy in road games is different, but we will try to emulate what we did against Siena. “We still have a chance.”