Yellow-and-blue hopes to right ship vs Milano

Mac TA’s shooting must improve against struggling Italians to avenge early-season loss.

Jordan Farmar 311 bball R (photo credit: Reuters)
Jordan Farmar 311 bball R
(photo credit: Reuters)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to bounce back from its humbling home defeat to Hapoel Jerusalem when it hosts Olimpia Milano in Euroleague action at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
The 78-64 BSL loss to Jerusalem on Sunday was just Maccabi’s second in 20 games in all competitions this season, snapping the yellow-and-blue’s 11- game winning streak.
Tel Aviv hadn’t lost a game since it dropped its Euroleague regular season opener at Milano, but four straight continental wins since have given it sole possession of first place in Group C and means it can already effectively clinch its place in the competition’s Top 16 with a victory over the Italians on Thursday.
After averaging 88.9 points in its first 17 games of the season, Maccabi’s form took a significant dip in its three games over four days last weekend, posting just 66.7 points in that busy stretch.
Maccabi has misfired from beyond the arc from the start of the campaign, but until its last three games it more than made up for scoring the fewest three-pointers in the Euroleague so far this season (22 of 80, 27.5 percent) by hitting a high percentage of its twopoint attempts.
However, after scoring at least 70 points in each of its first 17 games, Maccabi failed to pass that mark in all three of its encounters last weekend, netting just 43.6 percent of its shots from twopoint range.
While the toll of playing three games in four days and the fact that Jordan Farmar didn’t take part in the last two surely played a factor in Maccabi’s offensive struggles, coach David Blatt refuses to overlook his team’s scoring slump.
“This was our first experience this season of playing three games in four days and it makes sense that the last of the games against Jerusalem was our worst of the campaign,” Blatt said.
“Nevertheless, there is no excuse for our performance against Jerusalem and I’m clearly worried about our inability to score. We are getting open shots but our players are just missing. I’m not sure of the reason, but we have shooters who can score and they keep missing.
“It is important that we recover mentally and physically from last weekend,” he added. “We are going to have some setbacks this season, but we need to make sure we become a better team for them.”
Since defeating Maccabi 89-82, Milano has lost three of four Euroleague games, including twice at home against Efes Istanbul and Partizan Belgrade last week.
The Italians suffered a monumental meltdown against Partizan, dropping a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Malik Hairston and Danilo Gallinari scored 25 and 23 points, respectively, against Maccabi, but neither has managed to repeat that performance in Milano’s four European games since.
With just two wins at the midway point of the regular season, Sergio Scariolo’s squad is in danger of missing out on the Top 16 and the Italian coach knows his team will have to be at its very best to get its campaign back on track in Tel Aviv.
“In the strongest group of the Euroleague regular season every game is a tough battle,” he said.
“On the road we have played some good games, but with the wrong final result. In Tel Aviv we will have to play an almost perfect game and we must try to control both our nerves and the rhythm of the game.”
Although Milano is ranked last in three point accuracy (25.7 percent), steals (3.2) and offensive rebounds (7) in the Euroleague this season, and is second to last in assists (11), Maccabi has already been burned once by the struggling Italians and has no intention of suffering at their hands for a second time, especially on the back of the defeat to Jerusalem.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Maccabi center Shawn James, who has played an increased role off the bench for Tel Aviv in recent weeks.
“They beat us in Italy in Week 1, but now we’re at home and we’re going to do everything we need to win. In the last game, against Jerusalem, we didn’t shoot well enough, but I believe we’ll do better against Milano. We’re not dwelling on the loss in the BSL, we’re going to be ready and focused for the game against Milano.
“It’s a really long season, and it’s impossible to win every single game.
The busy schedule doesn’t bother us, we just need to play better and harder.”