Maccabi Tel Aviv enters Gameday 17 of the Euroleague in a precarious situation sitting at 8-8 after 16 contests. With only 14 games to go, with just 6 at the friendly confines of Yad Eliyahu, the Yellow & Blue are going to need to pick up as many wins as possible in order to take a Top 8 spot and a trip to the quarterfinals in April. With that being said, is tonight’s game against Bamberg at 21:05 Israel time a must win and what will be the keys to the matchup against Brose?
Andrea Trinchieri’s team sits at 6-10 losing their last 4 games and are only 1-6 in their last 7. The German side features a mix of veterans and locals along with some European newcomers. The experience comes from the likes of Ricky Hickman who featured in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s last Euoroleague championship along with Daniel Hackett, Leon Radosevic and Bryce Taylor while Dorell Wright is playing in his first season in Europe. Add to that mix Patrick Heckmann and Augustine Rubit and the Italian mastermind has an interesting crew to toy with.
However, Maccabi’s roster is a step above Bamberg’s and Neven Spahija must find a way to take home the win and move to 9-8. He may not say it, but he knows that the Yellow & Blue will need to take home the victory, “It’s very important to win this game for us and I’ve seen the preparation over the last couple of days. We have another session to prepare and we are ready to play in front of our fans and do what we have done many times.” He was careful not to use the words “Must Win” but if you read between the lines, there isn way around it.
Michael Roll also tried to stay out of the must win business when I spoke to him this week after the win over Hapoel Eilat, “I am not going to worry about that. I’m just going to come out and play hard and do whatever we can to get the win.” He also outlined the keys to make sure they end the game with a W, “The keys are going to be our focus and intensity. As long as we can come out like that for 40 minutes, hopefully it will go well.”
Center Art Parakhouski as well focussed on the matchup and knows full well what the difference is between a win or a loss, “We understand that tomorrow is a very important game for us. We will come aggressive; we have to fight for points right now. We know that we are in the eighth position and behind us are other teams that are close, so if we lose tomorrow we can drop to 10th or 11th. So it’s an important game.” How will they make sure to take home the win? “We need to play aggressive and play defense, pay attention to the details that the coach wants and expects. And if we execute well, we will succeed.”
Another question heading into tonight’s battle is the availability of Deshaun Thomas. The forward was injured a couple of weeks ago and is on the mend. But will he be dressed and ready to go tonight? Spahija addressed the question at a the pregame press conference, “Deshaun played a contact practice and gave 100% effort. We will have to wait to see and the doctor will have to check him 24 hours after the practice to see how he reacts. It will be a game time decision.”
Regardless if Thomas is available to play or not, Maccabi must win this game. They are at a point of no return, knowing full well that they need to collect victories especially at home. With CSKA and Panathinaikos still to come in Tel Aviv, they have to ensure that the other remaining game against Barcelona, Red Star Belgrade, Khimki and of course Bamberg all come out own the positive side of the ledger.