Mac Tel Aviv looks to rebound in Game 2

Yellow-and-blue have a point to prove after first-game thrashing at the hands of Real Madrid.

Maccabi370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After a defeat of historic proportions, Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to regain its composure and turn Game 1 of the Euroleague quarterfinals into a distant memory when it faces Real Madrid in Game 2 in Spain on Friday night.
Maccabi’s 79-53 humbling in the series opener on Wednesday was its heaviest Euroleague defeat since 1991 when Tel Aviv was thrashed 101-67 by Barcelona in the Final Four semifinals in Paris.
Maccabi’s 53 points were the fewest ever scored by the team in a Euroleague game, with March 1969 marking the last time Tel Aviv finished a game in any continental competition with less points.
However, Maccabi needs to just think back to last season’s quarterfinals to feel slightly more optimistic ahead of Game 2, with the yellow-and-blue being outplayed in a 93-73 defeat to Panathinaikos in the series opener, only to claim a 94-92 overtime win in Athens two days later.
Tel Aviv got Game 1 in Madrid off to an ideal start, leading 26-14 early in the second quarter. However, Real scored 24 of the remaining 25 points in the first half and steamrolled David Blatt’s men after the break.
“It is what it is,” said a philosophical Blatt. “We experienced a bad night and that is putting it lightly. However, Friday is a new day. Unfortunately, we have experience in these types of situations and we will use that.
“We are playing a team that is stronger than us. I said that before the series began and I wasn’t doing so to lower the expectations,” added Blatt, who admitted he rested his starters in the fourth period ahead of Game 2.
“We are the underdog. However, we can play a lot better than we did in Game 1. They scored 79 points, which is what they’ve averaged this season. We only managed 53 points. We need to score more points and control the rebound and the ball better or we will not be able to win here.”
Maccabi didn’t even have a single player in double figures on Wednesday, with Ricky Hickman and Shawn James leading the team with nine points each. Tel Aviv hit just 34 percent (19-of-56) of its field goal attempts and was out-rebounded 44- 28 while committing 14 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Real’s Rudy Fernandez was named as the MVP for Game 1 of the playoffs with a performance index rating of 22 in just 25 minutes. He scored 15 points and took six rebounds for Madrid, which connected on 50 percent of its shots from three-point range (11-of-22) and grabbed 17 offensive boards.
“It was so important for us to win the first game,” said Fernandez. “This is an important step and it was great to do it this way. The next game on Friday will be a new game for both teams. I’m sure Maccabi will approach the game in a different way. The key to this victory was defense.
If we can continue this kind of defensive work, it will be easier going forward.”
After a superb run during which he scored in double digits in Maccabi’s past eight games, Devin Smith also lost his way in Madrid, ending the night with just seven points and zero rebounds.
“We made too many mistakes in defending Real’s three-point shooting and the fast break, but also in rebounding, which is just effort,” said Smith.
“We need to be stronger on the boards and that’s something we can correct pretty easily because we can control our effort level. This is a series and the next game will be different. We need to learn from our mistakes and make sure we are ready.”