Still on the road, yellow-and-blue must rebound quickly from Game 1 loss to Vitoria.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s hopes of becoming just the second Euroleague team in the past four seasons to advance to the Final Four without having home-court advantage will be all but over should it fail to defeat Caja Laboral Vitoria in Game 2 of the best-of-five quarterfinal series in Spain on Thursday night.Maccabi dropped to a 76-70 defeat in Game 1 on Tuesday, trailing throughout the contest after being outscored 26-14 in the first quarter.However, despite shooting just 17.6 percent (3-of-17) from three-point range compared to Vitoria’s 50 percent (13-of-26), David Blatt’s team managed to remain within range with the Spaniards until the end of the encounter, largely thanks to the 16 offensive rebounds it grabbed, 10 more than the hosts.Maccabi attempted 19 more shots (78-59) than Caja, but missed many easy opportunities, and the fact that the team combined for just eight assists is a testament to how desperately its offense struggled.Nonetheless, Blatt is confident his team can put Tuesday’s loss behind it and find its rhythm in Game 2 to give itself the road win it needs to have a chance of closing out the series next week when Games 3 and 4 are played at Nokia Arena.“We need to get off to a better start on Thursday and translate good opportunities into baskets,” said Blatt, who despite focusing on the significance of the early minutes in the build up to Game 1, saw his team drop to an early deficit.“We need to be optimistic, and to believe in ourselves. If we had been hitting our shots better from three-point range, things would have been different.AdvertisementWe had unforced missed shots, even some really annoying ones. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible to beat them.“We have some excellent players who simply weren’t having a good shooting day. We weren’t focused enough in the first half, and that’s something that keeps happening. We didn’t make the switch from the Israeli league to the Euroleague fast enough. This will be a long series and we will continue to fight.”Maccabi will surely be pleased with having limited Mirza Teletovic to 12 points and just two three-pointers from eight attempts, but it will have to find a solution for Stanko Barac – who terrorized the team under the basket, scoring 17 points in 23 minutes – and David Logan, who hit four triples on his way to 14 points in 23 minutes.“In Game 1 we had a high percentage in shots from the outside, but we have to be aware that that may not be the case in Game 2. We do know one thing: we have to win just the same,” Caja coach Dusko Ivanovic said.“The key to that is to defend well and to not allow Maccabi any fastbreaks and easy baskets. We are playing for a place in the Final Four, so every minute of these games will be very tough. We must not let them find their rhythm because when Maccabi does that, they can beat any team in Europe.”While Richard Hendrix was named as the MVP of Euroleague quarterfinal playoff Game 1 thanks to his 16-point, 16-rebound and four block performance off the bench, Maccabi will require a much better showing from its starting five to have a chance of winning on Thursday.Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who scored just four points in 13 minutes, is expected to see a lot more playing time after being surprisingly replaced in the starting lineup by Milan Macvan, while Blatt will also be hoping for better contributions from Lior Eliyahu (12 points on 5- of-14 from the field), and especially Jeremy Pargo (7 points on 3-of-13 from the field).“We need to bring a lot of motivation from the first game into the game on Thursday,” Eliyahu said. “We missed a lot of shots that we usually make with very good percentages. Sometimes there are days like that, when the ball just doesn’t go in. I’m hoping for another close game on Thursday, just that we’ll make more shots and they’ll miss more.”
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