Mac TA needs W to get Top 16 campaign back on track

“This is a must-win game for us,” says Maccabi coach David Blatt.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Devin Smith 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Devin Smith 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be playing for pride as much as anything else when it hosts Olympiacos in Euroleague Top 16 action at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
The yellow-and-blue suffered a humbling 88-67 thrashing at Khimki Moscow last week, dropping to its third defeat in four Top 16 games.
Maccabi was completely outplayed in the Russian capital and its hopes of reaching the quarterfinals, as well as its honor, will be on the line against the defending European champion on Thursday.
“This is a must-win game for us,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “We can’t afford to lose any more home games. We are doing everything we can to make up for last week’s performance. I always tell my players that things are never as bad or as good as they seem right after a game.”
Maccabi’s poor start combined with other results leaves Blatt’s side in an awkward position just four encounters into the Top 16’s 14-game schedule.
Tel Aviv already finds itself two games out of a place in the top four, with Montepaschi Siena (4-0), Caja Laboral Vitoria (4-0), Barcelona (3-1) and Khimki Moscow (3-1) all opening the Top 16 in impressive fashion.
With 10 games still to play, Maccabi has got plenty of time to make up lost ground, but Blatt understands that another home defeat on Thursday would essentially end any realistic chance Tel Aviv has of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
“Olympiacos has held onto the core of its roster from last season and enters the game in a similar situation to us with a 1-3 record and on the back of a painful home defeat,” said Blatt.
“It doesn’t hurt us that they are missing Josh Powell and Acie Law, but they have plenty of other good players.”
Blatt believes there will be several more twists and turns in the group.
“There will still be surprises in this group,” he noted.
“Vitoria looks like the strongest team in the group and we almost beat them.
Plenty more will still happen.”
Olympiacos is led by playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis (15.6 PPG, 5.4 APG), who has scored in double figures in 16 of his last 17 Euroleague games going back to last season.
Center Giorgi Shermadini will also garner plenty of attention on Thursday after beginning the season with Maccabi before being released prior to the Top 16 and joining the Greeks.
“This is our last chance,” said Maccabi forward Lior Eliyahu. “This is also their last chance so I imagine there will be a war on court.
“Apart from the game against Khimki we have played okay. We need to forget about that game and beat Olympiacos.”