Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to salvage pride, Euroleague season

The team will need center Sofoklis Schortsanitis at his best to have any chance of tying its Euroleague quarterfinal series against Panathinaikos at 1-1 on Thursday night.

SOFOKLIS SCHORTSANITIS of Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Perhaps more than anything else, it will be Maccabi Tel Aviv’s pride which will be on the line when it faces Panathinaikos in Athens on Thursday night looking to tie the Euroleague best-of-five quarterfinal series at 1-1.
Maccabi was thoroughly outplayed by the Greeks in Game 1 on Tuesday, with Panathinaikos effectively clinching the 93-73 win with seven minutes to play in the first half thanks to a 22-0 run.
There was no coming back for Maccabi after it entered the break down by 21 points (55-34), with Pao leading by as many as 34 at one stage (73-39) in the third period before taking its foot off the gas.
The 55 points allowed by Tel Aviv in the first half was the most it has conceded in any half since Caja Laboral Vitoria scored 57 on its way to a 94-78 thrashing of the yellow-and-blue in October 2010.
Maccabi committed a massive 13 turnovers in the first 20 minutes on Tuesday, equal to its 40-minute average throughout the season, while Panathinaikos dished out 16 assists, one more than its full game average.
There is nothing positive Maccabi can take from Tuesday’s encounter, but it could try and draw some encouragement from a quarterfinal series also played in Athens last season.
Olympiacos thrashed Siena by 48 points in Game 1, but fell by 17 points 48 hours later and went on to lose the series 3-1.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that we will struggle to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the series,” Blatt said on Wednesday. “We really want to return to Israel at 1-1.
“We have made some adjustments and have come to some conclusions which should help us in Game 2.
“Tuesday’s defeat is still in everyone’s heads and hearts and that is a good thing.”
While the entire team was dysfunctional in Game 1, Blatt will be especially worried with the display of his big men.
After an excellent Top 16 in which he averaged 13.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, Richard Hendrix was held to just six points on Tuesday, with all of them coming in second half garbage time.
David Blu also went scoreless in the first half, while Sofoklis Schortsanitis contributed two points in the first 20 minutes and ended the game with zero rebounds.
Sofo has gone on the record as saying that he would like to remain with Maccabi next season, but after following up a poor Top 16 (6.0 ppg and 2.8 rpg) with another dismal performance on Tuesday, his future with the yellowand- blue seems to be in real jeopardy.
“We played a good game, thanks to the concentration and the desire we had,” Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic said.
“We have to forget what happened tonight and prepare another game from scratch.
“Maccabi has a lot of pride and they will try to react.”
In the BSL, Maccabi Ashdod continued its hot run on Wednesday, beating BC Habika’a 83-72 for its seventh win in eight games.
Ashdod seized control of the encounter, which was twice postponed due to rocket fire from Gaza, with a 12-2 run to start the second half (46-33).
Josh Duncan, Dror Hagag and Robby Bostain each scored 14 points for Ashdod, while Paul Delaney had 18 points for Habika’a, which has lost six of seven.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil returned to winning ways with an 81-60 win at Ironi Ashkelon in another game postponed from last week.
Romeo Travis had 19 points for Gilboa, which led throughout the game, with Tony Skinn scoring 16 for Ashkelon.