Maccabi faces crucial match-up with Siena

Tel Aviv needs to regain European form against Italians to keep quarterfinal hopes alive.

Maccabi Tel Aviv Stehan Lasme 58 MK Productions (photo credit: MK Productions)
Maccabi Tel Aviv Stehan Lasme 58 MK Productions
(photo credit: MK Productions)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will have to put last week’s dismal display against Efes Pilsen behind it if it has any intention of beating Montepaschi Siena on Thursday night and remaining in the hunt for a Euroleague quarterfinal berth.
After three gutsy performances on the trot, which resulted in a tight road loss to Siena and two home victories over Real Madrid and Pilsen, Maccabi regressed to its weak form from the start of the season last week.
Tel Aviv shot poorly once more and was significantly outrebounded in Turkey, something it simply can not afford against Siena at the Nokia Arena.
Despite shooting just 38 percent from the field in Siena five weeks ago, Maccabi only lost by four points (76-72) and can take an important step towards the last eight by defeating Siena by five points or more to claim the tiebreaker.
“I can only hope I will be coaching the team which beat CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid and not the one which lost to Pilsen,” Maccabi coach Pini Gershon said.
“There is a lot of pressure on the roster ahead of the game and I hope the players will know how to channel it in the right direction. We managed to stop Siena in Italy and I hope we can do even better at home. I’m expecting a battle and we will need our 11,000 fans to push us to the victory.”
Siena enters Thursday’s encounter after losing 77-69 at Real Madrid last week, and like the rest of the teams in Group F, has won each of its home games while losing twice on the road.
David Hawkins led the Italians with 17 points in the victory over Maccabi, but has only scored five points in each of the team’s last two games. Terrell Mcintyre and Romain Sato were poor against the Israelis, but have been Siena’s best players in recent weeks and hold the keys to a Montepaschi win.
In the past three Euroleague games, Sato averaged 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, with Mcintyre contributing 15.7 points and 6.7 assists.
“It’s one of those games that can determine if we’re in or out,” Siena coach Simone Pianigiani said.
“We’re playing in a really tough arena where the atmosphere is intense. Maccabi is a well-trained team with a defensive system that always causes its opponents’ game trouble by limiting them to low percentage shots. We’re going to have to play a really great game to win in Tel Aviv.”
The play of Alan Anderson was the key to Maccabi’s sudden improvement at the start of the Top 16 and his struggles against Pilsen were the main reason behind the team’s defeat in Turkey last week.
In the first three Top 16 games, Anderson, who was named as the Euroleague MVP for February, averaged 23 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, hitting 80 percent of his shots from two-point range.
However, he was held to just seven points on 3-of-11 from the field by Efes, and with no other player stepping up, Maccabi had no chance of winning.
The biggest disappointment for Maccabi has been the performances of Chuck Eidson and Andrew Wisniewski. The Americans were supposed to become two of the side’s leaders, but have been extremely poor in the Top 16.
Eidson reached double-figures in only one of the last four games andhas averaged just 9.0 points in the Top 16, while also strugglingdefensively. Wisniewski has been a complete non-factor, scoring acombined 14 points and passing an embarrassing total of five assists infour group games.
“We must be aggressive from the first minute until the final whistle,”Wisniewski said. “We will try and dictate our pace to the game, runningthe court and spreading the ball on offense.
“We’re not thinking of the margin of victory. We just want to win.”