Mac TA falls 81-71 to Barca, now heads for Netanya

Blatt's squad slipped up for only the third time this year, falling to the reigning European champions.

Blutenthal 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Blutenthal 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned from Barcelona on Friday afternoon, disappointed after its 81- 71 defeat to the reigning European champion, but optimistic ahead of the remainder of the Euroleague Top 16.
Maccabi entered Thursday’s game with nine straight continental wins, but despite falling to Barca at the Palau Blaugrana, coach David Blatt took plenty of positives from what was only his team’s third loss in all competitions this season.
“The game was tough, as we expected,” Blatt said. “It took us time to get into the game and that was my fear from the beginning. We chased them and managed to catch them, but the energy we spent was what we needed in the end.
The guys played hard and wanted to win. We proved that we belong with the best teams in Europe.”
Maccabi trailed by just four (71- 67) with three minutes left, but couldn’t complete the comeback despite getting 13 from both Doron Perkins and Richard Hendrix.
Juan Carlos Navarro was unstoppable for Barca, scoring 24 points, including five threes.
“We gave Barca a fight and we weren’t far from winning,” Maccabi forward Lior Eliyahu said.
“We must focus on the future and learn from our mistakes.”
Maccabi, which hosts Lottomatica Roma in its next Euroleague game on Thursday, won’t have long to dwell on its defeat in Barcelona, with the yellow-and-blue visiting Barak Netanya in the BSL on Sunday.
Apart from its one defeat in the league to Bnei Hasharon, Tel Aviv has cruised in the BSL this season, winning all 13 of its games by at least nine points.
Netanya began the season poorly, but in the last two weeks it has knocked out Hapoel Jerusalem in the State Cup before thrashing Maccabi Ashdod in the league. Coach Eric Alfasi will also remember that Tel Aviv’s one and only defeat in 22 regular season games last season came in Netanya.
After crushing Ironi Ashkelon last week for a crucial confidence- boosting win, Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Haifa at Malha Arena on Sunday.
Jerusalem is still struggling with a short roster and has yet to find a replacement for the injured Brian Randle.
But its troubles pale in comparison to those of Haifa.
The Greens have lost nine of 10 league games and dropped to a humbling 95-78 defeat to Lukoil Academic Sofia in their EuroChallenge Last 16 opener last week, suffering an embarrassing fourth-quarter collapse.
Also Sunday, Ashkelon hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion, with Bnei Hasharon visiting Maccabi Ashdod on Monday.
On Saturday, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil beat Hapoel Holon 74-69 at Gan Ner to snap a two-game losing streak.
Dagan Yavzuri had 21 points for Gilboa, all from behind the arc.
Robert Hite scored 22 points for Holon.