Mac TA takes show on the road in Slovenia

Confident Olimpija seeks revenge as it hosts yellow-and-blue in crucial Top 16 contest.

MACCABI TEL AVIV center Sofoklis Schortsanitis (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
MACCABI TEL AVIV center Sofoklis Schortsanitis
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite thrashing Olimpija Ljubljana by 37 points two weeks ago, Maccabi Tel Aviv is bracing itself for a tough challenge in Slovenia on Thursday night.
Maccabi surged into an 18-point lead after 10 minutes before cruising to a win against Ljubljana at Nokia Arena. A victory in the Slovenian capital will likely guarantee it a place in the Euroleague quarterfinals and set up a mouthwatering showdown with Barcelona next week for top position in Group F.
“We are facing a difficult game that will have nothing to do with the result from two weeks ago,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said.
“Ljubljana has played a lot of good games at home this season and has beaten some very good opponents. This will be quite a challenge. We need to play with the same intensity and aggression as we did two weeks ago.”
Ljubljana was the surprise of the Euroleague in the regular season, finishing in second place in Group D, winning all five of its games at the Stozice Arena.
However, Jure Zdovc’s men have struggled so far in the Top 16, winning their Group F opener at Lottomatica Roma before falling to their first home defeat of the campaign at the hands of Barca and being humbled in Tel Aviv by Maccabi.
While the yellow-and-blue easily leads all teams in the Top 16 in points (91.3), two-point percentage (65.4 percent), rebounds (40) and assists (19.3), Ljubljana has yet to score more than 67 points in its three games and is among the competition’s worst sides in twopoint percentage (45.8 percent), threepoint shooting (28.1 percent), rebounds (29) and assists (11.7).
Nevertheless, Zdovc guaranteed his team would beat Maccabi at home after seeing it drop to a painful defeat in Tel Aviv and continued to exude confidence this week.
“We still have a chance to advance to the quarterfinals and we are very motivated to avenge the catastrophic defeat in Tel Aviv,” Zdovc said. “I said Maccabi is beatable before the game in Tel Aviv, and I’ll repeat the same now.
We will do everything in our power to win this game.
“We survived the cup weekend without any major problems. Some players are still slightly injured, but I think we will be ready for the game on Thursday. I believe the adrenaline and the momentum of the game will do its job and we will show our best face against Maccabi.”
Ljubljana forward Vladimir Boisa echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“We played a terrible game on the road against Maccabi and they were unstoppable,” he said. “I believe Barcelona is a better team than Maccabi.
We had a last shot to win the game against Barca, so I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t be the same against Maccabi on Thursday.
“We have to play our game and we have to control Maccabi so they don’t start running the court like they did in the first game in Tel Aviv. The defeat in Israel hurt us a lot, that’s why we will do everything to show the people that we can beat Maccabi at our home.”
Ljubljana won three games over three straight days to lift the Slovenian cup on Sunday, and even though Tel Aviv will be far better rested, especially considering its has won its last six games in all competitions by an average 35.7 points, forward Lior Eliyahu is expecting a tricky time in Slovenia.
“This game won’t be like the one in Tel Aviv,” said Eliyahu, who scored 20 points, hitting 10 of 10 shots, in the 104-67 win against Olimpija at Nokia.
“This is a psychological battle that we will have to get through. It’s never easy to play in front of 13,000 opposing fans, but we need to win to reach the game against Barcelona in good shape. We have a big advantage at home, but we need to bring that advantage on the road too.
“If we want to get to the playoffs and the Final Four, we will need to win on the road. If we play like we did in Tel Aviv, we’ll be fine, but I am certain that Olimpija will put up more of a fight.”