Mac TA-Pana series shifts to Nokia for two crucial contests

Maccabi stole home-court advantage with Thursday’s win in Athens, it will be desperate to clinch series in Tel Aviv with wins in Game 3 and 4.

Yogev Ohayon 390 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Yogev Ohayon 390
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 94-92 overtime victory over Panathinaikos last Thursday night will forever be remembered as one of the greatest wins in the club’s illustrious history.
However, coach David Blatt has spent the four days since preaching to his players to forget about that triumph in Athens and focus on Game 3 of the Euroleague quarterfinal best-of-five series at Nokia Arena on Tuesday night.
As special as the victory in Game 2 was, it will be rendered all but meaningless should the yellow-and-blue fail to win the series and eliminate the defending European champion.
Maccabi stole home-court advantage with Thursday’s win in Athens and it will be desperate to clinch the series in Tel Aviv with wins in Game 3 and 4, which will be played on Thursday, to avoid a return to Greece for a decisive fifth game.
“We are certainly in a better situation than we were at the start of the series, but I wouldn’t say we are the favorites,” claimed the ever-wary Blatt.
“There is no reason for us to be complacent. We know who we are facing. Panathinaikos is just as good a team away from home as it is in Athens and it has a very experienced roster.”
Pao has actually got a better Euroleague record on the road than it does at home, winning six of eight games on its travels this season, including all three in the Top 16.
“Every game is different,” said Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic. “It’s something that we already saw in the first two games in Athens.
They were two completely different games. I believe that nothing is going to be the same in Israel, too.
“It is always difficult to play there. We know that very well.
We know how the fans of Maccabi are, how they support their team and that Nokia Arena is sold out. We need to play with concentration throughout the game and we believe in our capabilities.”
Pao guard Sarunas Jasikevicius will be making his first appearance at Nokia Arena on Tuesday since leaving seven years ago after two sensational seasons with the yellowand- blue.
The Lithuanian helped Maccabi to back-to-back Euroleague titles, and after a slow start to this season, Saras has been handed an increased role in recent weeks, scoring 15 points and playing 30 minutes, both season highs, in Game 2.
“They took one game from us in Athens, but of course we can take it back in Tel Aviv,” Saras said on Monday. “We have to play better than in Game 2 and I hope that we will. I think they will probably be more comfortable at home, but I also believe we will play better.
“Of course there will be a lot of emotions and memories, but I need to focus on the game. For me the most important thing is to try and help Pao.”