Maccabi Haifa’s hopes hanging by a thread

Greens host undefeated group leader Khimki in must-win; Jerusalem looks ahead to round-of-16.

Maccabi Haifa's star forward Donta Smith (right). (photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Maccabi Haifa's star forward Donta Smith (right).
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Maccabi Haifa will have to record one of the biggest wins in club history on Wednesday night to have any chance of advancing to the Eurocup round-of-16.
Haifa hosts Russian powerhouse Khimki Moscow at Romema Arena and will only progress from Last 32 Group K with a home victory combined with a Montepaschi Siena win over CEZ Nymburk in Italy.
Haifa’s chances are hanging on for dear life after the club failed to convert a 17-point gap to a victory at Nymburk last week.
The Greens dropped to a 2-3 record after completely capitulating in the fourth frame in the Czech Republic, being outscored 20-2 in the final 10 minutes on the way to a 68-53 defeat.
Khimki’s roster was built to compete in the Euroleague, but found itself in the Eurocup after surprisingly failing in the qualifying rounds of continental basketball’s premier club competition.
Khimki was also stunned by Ploiesti in its Eurocup regular season opener, but has reeled off 14 consecutive victories in the competition since, setting a new record with last week’s 85-73 triumph over Siena.
In fact, coach Rimas Kurtinaitis’ side has won 29 straight games over all competitions since that defeat to Ploiesti more than four months ago, including a 39-point (87-48) humbling of Haifa in Russia last month.
Haifa will draw some encouragement from the knowledge that Hapoel Jerusalem pushed Khimki to two overtimes before losing to the Russians at Malha Arena in the regular season and will also be hoping that the fact Moscow has nothing to play for will result in a complacent performance.
“Clearly we are not the favorites.
Khimki is one of the stronger teams in the competition if not the strongest,” said Haifa forward Ben Reis. “Perhaps they won’t give their all after securing their progress. I hope they will underestimate us and that we will be able to surprise them.”
Hapoel Jerusalem has already booked its place in the roundof- 16 from first place in Group K after improving to 4-1 last week with an 86-77 win over Olimpija Ljubljana.
Jerusalem’s main concern when it visits Banvit Bandirma on Wednesday will be to avoid any injuries ahead of next week’s mouthwatering BSL showdown with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Hapoel will also have one eye on the action in Group I, with the group runner-up to be its next opponent. Ulm of Germany, Cantu of Italy, Nanterre of France and Karsiyaka of Turkey all still have a chance to advance on Wednesday.
The round-of-16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final will all be decided in a head-tohead two-game home-andaway series determined by aggregate score.