Mac TA loses Perkins before critical Game 4

Up 2-1, yellow-and-blue keen to finish off Vitoria and avoid return trip to Spain.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Doron Perkins has been the heart and soul of Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, but the yellow-and-blue will have to close out the best-of-five Euroleague quarterfinal series against Caja Laboral Vitoria at Nokia Arena on Thursday night without its star guard, who will watch Game 4 from his hospital bed after undergoing surgery on his right knee on Wednesday.
Perkins was carried off the court in excruciating pain after twisting his knee violently at the start of the second quarter of Game 3 on Tuesday.
After an MRI showed that he had torn several ligaments, he underwent a two-hour surgical procedure on Wednesday and is expected to be out for around nine months.
Maccabi actually played its best minutes without Perkins in Game 3, outscoring Vitoria 45-22 in the second and third periods on the way to a comfortable 81-60 victory and a 2-1 lead in the series.
However, Perkins, who averaged a team-high 30 minutes per game before the injury, will surely be missed in Game 4 and coach David Blatt knows other players will have to step up in his absence.
“The players played for Doron and won the game for him, but on Thursday it’s a new game with new energies that we’ll have to bring from somewhere.”
Blatt said. “Chuck Eidson will have to take more on himself when it comes to being more responsible and carrying the ball, but not only him.
We’ll have to mix our line-ups to cover for Doron’s absence.”
Two more players who will have to play increased roles for the rest of the campaign are Guy Pnini and Tal Burstein, who saw 17 minutes of action in Game 3 after averaging just eight minutes in the Top 16.
Jeremy Pargo played a game-high 35 minutes with Perkins out and was unstoppable for much of the night, scoring 23 points, including four three-pointers.
Pargo and David Blu combined for eight of 14 from beyond the arc, and after conceding 23 threes from 46 attempts in Games 1 and 2 in Spain, Tel Aviv outplayed the Euroleague’s best perimeter-shooting team on Tuesday, hitting 11 of 25 long-range efforts compared to just five of 22 by Vitoria.
“It was a very difficult game,” said center Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who had nine points, eight rebounds and a season- high five assists.
“Pargo played a huge game. We saw Blu open and gave him the ball because he can really shoot it. He hit some big shots and it was fun to watch.
“We can’t calm down. They will rest until the next game, and come with new energies. We’ll try to do the same on Thursday, and we’re on the right course, but it’s not going to happen easily. We have one more win before the Final Four.”
Vitoria will need an improved performance from its entire roster if it has any intention of forcing a Game 5 in Spain, especially from star small forward Fernando San Emeterio, who matched a season-low in Game 3 with five points.
“It’s not the time to cry. It’s time to fight, we have another game to play,” coach Dusko Ivanovic said. “The series is 2-1 but we must not look at Game 3 anymore, the next one will be different.
I am sure that we can play better and everything is in our hands.”
Eidson had just five points on Tuesday despite being on court for almost 34 minutes, and has scored in doublefigures in only two of the team’s last nine continental games.
With Perkins missing, Eidson will focus on helping Maccabi with its ballhandling on Thursday, but a significant contribution on offense from the American swingman could end up making the difference in Game 4.
“Game 3 was big for us. We stuck to the coach’s game plan and we succeeded,” he said. “We played like a team, but unfortunately we lost Doron and we will miss him for sure. We need to carry over the momentum from Game 3 and play just as hard in a game that could put us in the Final Four.”