Local Hoops: Maccabi must now refocus on league play

First-place Tel Aviv visits Givat Shmuel while Jerusalem hosts Haifa in grudge match.

Lior Eliyahu 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Lior Eliyahu 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Maccabi Tel Aviv returns to the BSL on Sunday evening - the one competition it still has a chance of winning - after regaining some lost pride in the Euroleague on Thursday night. Maccabi defeated Alba Berlin 76-70 on the road to improve to 2-3 in Group F of the Top 16, but the game was no more than a glorified friendly, with Barcelona and Real Madrid already booking their place in the competition's quarterfinals on Wednesday night. "We had no chance to advance any more, but we still had a job to do, to represent ourselves and this club," said Maccabi guard Marcus Brown, who scored 21 points, including four of seven from beyond the arc. Charles Gaines made the most of the absence of the injured D'or Fischer and Yaniv Green, sharing Top 16 Week 5 co-MVP honors with Mike Hall of Armani Jeans Milano, after leading the team with 22 points and 12 rebounds, hitting 8-for-11 from two-point range and drawing seven fouls. "It was a slow game early, but we were able to pick up the tempo and keep the intensity up and execute down the stretch," Brown added. "I did not get my shots in the first half and missed some close ones early, but when that happens, you just have to be patient, stick with the game, and later I got my open looks. "It was strange to play without our big guys. We missed D'or Fischer and Yaniv Green. We just wish them well and a healthy recovery." On Sunday, Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Givat Shmuel in the BSL, looking to cement top position in the standings ahead of next month's playoffs. Maccabi, which will give new signing Aaron McGhee his debut on Sunday, is 7-0 in the BSL in 2009, winning every game by at least 12 points. In Sunday's most intriguing showdown, second-placed Hapoel Jerusalem will try to avenge its State Cup semifinal loss when it hosts third-placed Maccabi Haifa. Both teams enter the encounter on the back of disappointing defeats. Jerusalem was thrashed 108-92 at Ironi Ramat Gan last week, its third defeat of the season and second in three games. Haifa fell to a 79-72 home defeat to Hapoel Galil/Gilboa last week, losing an excellent opportunity to make up ground on Hapoel. Also Sunday, Ironi Kiryat Ata hosts Bnei Hasharon and Ironi Ashkelon visits Maccabi Rishon Lezion. On Monday, Galil/Gilboa hosts Hapoel Holon and Ramat Gan visits Ironi Nahariya, which now seems to be saved from financial ruin after the local municipality and sponsor Iscar transferred money to the club.