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PREVIEW “It’s a big testament to our team that we were able to win games and play good basketball despite all of the injuries” Jake Cohen and Maccabi Tel Aviv ready for Bayern Munich

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Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bayern Munich in Europeague Gameday 21 this evening at 21:30 Israel time as the Yellow & Blue look to extend their winning streak to four games. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad enters the contest 14-6 good for 3rd place, however, CSKA Moscow and Barcelona hold the identical record and are in 4th and 5th places respectively.

Munich are in 18th and last place with a 6-14 record, but have now have the services of TJ Bray who returned from injury two games ago. Last week, Oliver Kostic’s Bayern were swept in Greece by Panathinaikos and Olympiacos in their double week while Maccabi took both games at home against Barcelona and Milano.

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On the injury front, the Yellow & Blue will be without Omri Casspi who will undergo knee surgery and be out for the balance of the season, John DiBartolomeo is also unavailable most probably for the rest of the campaign, Yovel Zoosman has a broken thumb and is out of action for at least the upcoming month, Nate Wolters has a shoulder issue which might end his season and Tarik Black is recuperating from a knee injury as well.

Due to the absence of so many players, Maccabi signed 6-time NBA All-Star Amare Stoudemire who will arrive in Israel on Friday and will join the team for Sinday’s Tel Aviv Derby. It is not yet known if STAT will play. The addition of Stoudemire will bolster the power forward and center positions and will join Jake Cohen, Othello Hunter, Angelo Caloiaro, Quincy Acy and newcomer Jalen Reynolds.

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Acting captain Jake Cohen had this to say about Amare switching jerseys from Red to Yellow & Blue and the club’s serious injury situation, “I’m really excited about the addition, with all of the injuries we have had, we needed help. Hopefully, Amar’e will help us as soon as possible. Injuries hurt us lately. It’s a big testament to our team that we were able to win games and play good basketball despite all of that. I’m hopeful that the new guys can build off what we started, Aaron (Jackson) and Jaylen have done a great job integrating themselves into the team and being great in the locker room. I’m hopeful Amar’e can do the same thing because everyone knows the caliber player he is.”

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“It’s the unfortunate part of the game, but sometimes things just happen,” Cohen continued. “I know how well our guys take care of their bodies working with Regev Fanan and the physiotherapists, I see it every day, but sometimes you just get hit in the wrong way. Sometimes you get a few bad cards from the dealer, that’s life.”

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Coach Sfairopoulos spoke about the team’s desire to keep their fine season intact, “The drive to win led us to this position. Although all of the unexpected circumstances that could have hurt our game, we had stability bringing in our new additions. As long as we will practice together, we will become better and better. We have players that are with us for the past couple of weeks, so they are in a much better situation than what they came in, but they still have a lot to improve. Hopefully, winning and getting better will make us perform even better than now.”

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But the bench boss warned that Bray could cause havoc for his squad, “Bayern will try to fight hard for the win, we really need to be concentrated and play our game because if not, we will have a difficult time. TJ Bray is a very good creator, they missed this type of player in the first matchup, as they didn’t have the luxury to have Lo and Bray.”

LISTEN TO TJ BRAY ON WITH THE SPORTS RABBI

Former Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser understands the tough game that awaits them, “Maccabi is a very tough opponent. We already know that they play with high energy and very physical – this we have to match better than in the first game and then everything is possible.”

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Bayern Coach Kostic knows that the Yellow & Blue will be a difficult opponent but also sees where his team can improve, “Maccabi is one of the best teams this season and a candidate for the Final Four. I have great respect for their development. But our focus is on our game, we have to improve in rebounding (especially in offense) and in turnovers, that was our weakness in the last games. But this week we had some time to work on that. Of course we’ll get nothing for free and have to fight over 40 minutes.”

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