Mac returns to Nokia for pivotal Game 3

Now with home-court advantage vs Vitoria, Tel Aviv must shut down perimeter.

Eliyahu 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Eliyahu 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After tying the best-of-five Euroleague quarterfinal series at 1-1 thanks to a dramatic Jeremy Pargo basket last week, Maccabi Tel Aviv returns to Nokia Arena on Tuesday night needing two wins in three days to book a place in the Final Four.
Maccabi seemed to be heading towards a 2-0 deficit in the series, trailing by four points with one minute to play in Game 2. However, Tel Aviv somehow managed to snatch a victory thanks to Lior Eliyahu’s three-point play and Pargo’s jumper in the dying seconds and is now two home wins away from returning to the showcase event of continental basketball’s most prestigious competition after two seasons of watching the Final Four on television.
“We hope to make full use of our home court advantage in Games 3 and 4,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said.
“Caja is a wonderful team, very welltrained and with extremely talented players. This series has been close and difficult up to now, and will remain so, but we’ll do everything in our power to win it.”
Maccabi beat Caja 81-70 when the teams met at Nokia in the regular season in November, holding the Euroleague’s best perimeter shooting team to 15.7 percent from beyond the arc (3 of 19).
However, Tel Aviv had no answer for Vitoria’s proficiency from long range in the first two games of the quarterfinal series, with the Spaniards hitting 50 percent of their 46 three-point attempts, while Maccabi only made 24.1% (7 of 29).
Nonetheless, Maccabi found other ways to win, dominating the boards in both games and especially in last Thursday’s win, when it took nine more rebounds than Vitoria, including 13 offensive boards.
Caja will have to find some solution to being outplayed under the baskets, but first and foremost coach Dusko Ivanovic will be hoping his players will be fresh enough to give their best at Nokia.
While Maccabi had its BSL game against Hapoel Gilboa/Galil postponed by a month to allow it to prepare for Game 3, Vitoria had to travel to face Menorca in the Spanish league on Sunday, winning 77-76 on the road thanks to Mirza Teletovic, who scored five unanswered points in the final minute to tie the score before sinking the game-winning triple at the buzzer.
“We have not said our last word in the series,” Ivanovic said. “Maccabi has not qualified for the Final Four just yet, and my team will fight to the best of its abilities, in Tel Aviv or wherever it has to play, knowing that it can win.
“It is clear that if we want to keep our chances to advance we must play stronger and tougher than we did in Game 2. We also have to avoid easy baskets in transition. I trust my team and we are going to give it our all in the two games that we have to play in Israel.”
After hitting just three of 13 field goals in Game 1 on his way to seven points and going a combined five of 23 in his previous two Euroleague games, Pargo broke out of his slump last Thursday, scoring 13 points on six of 10 from the field, including the two most important points of the night.
“They’re not going to give us anything, just like we didn’t want to give them anything,” Pargo said ahead of Game 3. “No matter where you are, no matter how tired you are, they’re going to come out and try to do their best to win. We’ve got to do our best to stop that.
“We have great fans at Nokia, and I’m pretty sure the fans will be right behind us, and hopefully we can get it done here in Tel Aviv.”