Payback on Maccabi’s mind vs Partizan

No one on the team has forgotten the 94-78 thrashing at the hands of Caja Laboral Vitoria two weeks ago, a bitter memory.

Maccabi Tel Aviv Chuck Eidson 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Maccabi Tel Aviv Chuck Eidson 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to prove its impressive performances in the past week were no coincidence when it visits Partizan Belgrade on Thursday night.
Maccabi defeated Zalgiris Kaunas 86- 70 in the Euroleague last week before crushing Hapoel Jerusalem 75-55 on Sunday to reassert its dominance over the BSL.
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However, no one on the team has forgotten the 94-78 thrashing at the hands of Caja Laboral Vitoria two weeks ago, a bitter memory which will only be dispelled with a first continental road victory.
A lot has seemingly changed since the loss in Vitoria, with Maccabi establishing itself in the past two weeks as a team which takes pride in its defense and scores much of its points on the fastbreak.
An away win in Serbia will raise optimism levels at Tel Aviv even further, but coach David Blatt remains wary of Partizan and is preaching for patience.
“We have to come to the game sharp and ready,” Blatt said. “We need to defend very well and not turn over the ball too much. The level of basketball in Serbia is excellent, and Partizan has a marvelous tradition.
“We need to play a lot better than they do in order to win, because they have a huge advantage playing on their home court with their fantastic fans, who remind me of our own.
“Their fans really contribute a lot to their team, and have an influence on their opponent and sometimes on the referees.”
Partizan eliminated Maccabi in four games in the Euroleague quarterfinal playoffs last season, but coach Dusko Vujosevic has since left for CSKA Moscow and only two Belgrade starters from that series – Dusan Kecman and Jan Vesely – remain with the team.
“They’re a fairly new team, but a strong one,” Blatt noted. “The new players are fitting in well with their club. Their center, Jawai, has a build similar to that of Schortsanitis. It’s going to be very interesting.”
Partizan lost 73-62 at Zalgiris in its Euroleague opener, but rebounded with a 72-68 home victory over BC Khimki last week.
However, the Serbs have since lost to Ljubljana in the Adriatic League and coach Vlade Jovanovic is hoping his team will return to winning ways against Maccabi.
“After our victory last week, we didn’t succeed to keep the level and quality of our play in the Adriatic League defeat in Ljubljana,” Jovanovic said.
“Our ambitions are bigger after last week in the Euroleague, but I need to be modest when our plans and future games come to question. Maccabi has a new team with a new coach, same as Partizan. They have new ambitions and they will be motivated because of last season’s elimination from the competition by our team. I am sure that fact will be crucial for motivating their players for this match.
“We will give our maximum and more to make a good impression and get the result. For sure we will be brave on the court, and this will be a chance to see how far we can go in this Euroleague season.”
Jovanovic will be hoping to slow down Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who scored 24 points in 22 minutes last week, with his very own very big man Nathan Jawai, who had 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks last week.
Kecman and Vesely are two more players who will be given special attention by the Maccabi defense, but Tel Aviv forward Guy Pnini is focused on Partizan as a whole and is confident of returning to Israel with a win.
“We don’t have good memories of Belgrade, but what happened last year is history,” Pnini said. “We’re starting over and we’re looking ahead. Most of our players have dealt with pressure situations like this and we’re professional enough to focus on the game and not on the crowd.
“Things have been going well for us lately and I hope and believe that we will keep up the momentum in Belgrade. We’ve come to Serbia to win.”
On TV: Maccabi Tel Aviv at Partizan Belgrade (live on Channel 10 at 9:45 p.m.)