Yom Hazikaron/Euroleague clash coming to a head for Mac TA

Scheduling conflict could derail Maccabi's championship hopes.

Mac TA celebrates 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Mac TA celebrates 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Despite completing a 3-1 quarterfinal series victory over Caja Laboral Vitoria on Thursday, there is still one obstacle which stands between Maccabi Tel Aviv and participation in the Euroleague Final Four.
Maccabi claimed an impressive 99-77 win at Nokia Arena on Thursday to clinch the best-of-five series, but its involvement in continental basketball’s showcase event is still in a bit of doubt, as the final on May 8 is scheduled to tip-off after the commencing of Yom Hazikaron in Israel.
Maccabi chairman Shimon Mizrahi raised the issue with Euroleague chiefs during the draw for the Top 16 at the start of January, but no change was made, and the organizers now find themselves in a bind as Tel Aviv has ruled out any possibility of playing on Yom Hazikaron.
The most likely solution will be to bring forward the final from the evening to the afternoon so it would finish before the start of the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day.
“We have announced that if we advance to the final we will not play on Yom Hazikaron,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said. “There is a scenario that we won’t even travel to the Final Four. To play in the semis and then give the Euroleague an ultimatum regarding the final will not be the honorable thing to do. We need to put everything on the table from the start and hopefully find a solution.”
Assuming the quandary is solved, Maccabi will make its eighth Final Four appearance in 12 years, an especially outstanding achievement considering the progress the team has made over just a few months.
There were many question marks hanging over the roster assembled by Blatt at the start of the season, especially after it was completely outplayed in its first Euroleague game of the campaign by Vitoria.
However, Blatt quickly molded an exciting and excellent side from his group of underdogs, and just over five months after the humbling in Vitoria, Maccabi dominated the Spaniards on its way to the Final Four.
“This is a very special team,” Blatt said. “We don’t have any real big names and have always focused on doing what is best for the team. We always remained humble and let our performances do the talking.
“I have worked with many teams in the past, but I have never coached a roster which works so hard day in day out.”
Blatt said that he really began to grasp the potential of his team after the Euroleague regular season.
“We have achieved something no one expected from us at the start of the season,” he said.
“We decided on a certain direction and tactic and we stuck to it. After we were so dominant in the regular season and I saw that we are doing something that no other team is doing I realized we could go far. We were so good defensively and you can always count on defense.”
Maccabi now faces over a month of almost meaningless BSL games before it is schedule to face the winner of the series between Real Madrid and Valencia, which will be determined this Thursday, in the Final Four semis in Barcelona on May 6.
Tel Aviv, which has already wrapped up first position in the league standings, hosts Maccabi Haifa on Sunday, looking for its 16th straight BSL victory.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Jerusalem could take a significant step towards clinching second place when it hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil on Sunday.
Jerusalem has won five of six games, but will face a stern test against Gilboa, which has claimed four of five contests.
Also Sunday, Ironi Ashkelon hosts Maccabi Ashdod.
On Monday, Hapoel Holon welcomes Barak Netanya and Maccabi Rishon Lezion visits Bnei Hasharon.