Mac TA gunning for 6th straight conquest

Yellow-and-blue can smell quarterfinals as it hosts Group F cellar-dweller Besiktas.

Mac TA's Ricky Hickman 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Mac TA's Ricky Hickman 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After coming back from the dead, Maccabi Tel Aviv can inch ever closer to advancing to the Euroleague quarterfinals when it hosts Besiktas JK at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
Maccabi looked to be out of the running for a top-four finish in Top 16 Group F after winning just two of its first seven games, losing three times at home.
However, five straight wins, including three on the road, the last of which came last week at European champion Olympiacos, have propelled Maccabi right back into contention entering its final two group games.
Tel Aviv will be a firm favorite against Besiktas, which only claimed its first Top 16 win last week to improve to 1-11, and the yellow-and-blue could even secure a quarterfinal berth on Friday should other results in the group go its way.
Maccabi stunned Olympiacos 73-67 to improve to a 7-5 record, tied for second place with the Greeks, Montepaschi Siena and Khimki Moscow.
A win over Besiktas combined with an expected Siena loss to group leader Barcelona (11-1) on Friday will in all likelihood ensure the yellow-andblue progress to the last eight.
However, with the group possibly ending with a three or fourway tie for second place, Maccabi will likely only officially secure its qualification with the final buzzer of its last Top 16 game at Barcelona next Thursday, even should it defeat Besiktas and Siena lose.
Tel Aviv could even end the group in second place and claim home-court advantage in the quarterfinals, but all its hard work will go to waste should it slip-up against Besiktas.
After beginning the Top 16 with 11 consecutive defeats, including a 77-55 home loss to Maccabi, Besiktas finally got off the mark against the slumping Italians last week, winning 72- 70 in Istanbul.
However, the Turks will still be playing for no more than pride in Tel Aviv.
Since losing to Maccabi in Turkey, Besiktas has seen topscorer Curtis Jerrells leave and key contributor Dan Ewing sidelined with a knee injury.
Slovenian Vidmar Gasper has stepped up to become the team’s leading scorer in the Top 16 with 11.2 points per game, but the center’s most eye-catching stat is his free-throw percentage, shooting a shocking Euroleague worse of 34 percent.
“We need to win on Thursday and until we do that we will not look any further ahead,” said guard Yogev Ohayon. “We are perfect in the second round of the Top 16 so far and we want to keep it that way against Besiktas.”