Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Anadolu EFES to their home away from home in Belgrade on Thursday (21:05) as they will look to get back onto the winning track in Euroleague play after falling to Bologna last week that moved their record to 7-6 on the season. The yellow-and-blue will face the Turkish team that will be without many of their regulars due to injury as their head coach Erden Cam will need to find a solution to make up for the loss of so many key parts to his lineup.
While former Maccabi guard Elijah Bryant is listed as questionable, their former center Ante Zizic is out as well as Will Clyburn, Derek Willis, Rodrigue Beaubois and Tibor Pleiss leaving the first year Euroleague bench boss relying heavily on star guard Shane Larkin. Darius Thompson who arrived from Baskonia and one time Hapoel Tel Aviv big man Tyrique Jones will also be able to pick up the slack, but no doubt EFES is struggling to find depth.
“Efes are playing really well despite being shorthanded,” Maccabi veteran Jake Cohen said. “They won both games in the double week. We will need to play our best in order to get a win and I think we can do it but we need to put our best foot forward.”
Antonius Cleveland also understands that the yellow-and-blue will need to find a way to stop Larkin and Thompson in order to pick up the win, “Pretty tough team, they have great guards, great backcourt and we have to come out to stop those two guys They are the engine to what they eat to do. Stick to the game, make life hard for those guys and play our game and get back to having fun.”
Bench boss Oded Katash echoed the sentiments, “Interestingly enough we will face a very good team as they are coming in with many injuries and are missing some quality players, however, the more players they are missing the more they are winning. They have two very dominant guards who are in top form.
Katash is also well aware that the team will need to buckle down on defense which has been their Achilles heal all season long thus far, “After a game in Bologna where we gave up 100 points, we will have to win through our defense. We will have to distribute our time and minutes well because there are players who are probably not 100% fit to play.”
Maccabi who sit at 7-6 are bunched up together with no less than 4 other teams who sport the same record while another five are either 8-5 or 6-7 making for a very tight race in the standings. While the playoffs are far, far away at this point, Cleveland feels that the club needs to start to rattle off some victories in order to break away from the pack.
“It’s really close right now and a number of teams are 7-6 and every game matters. We want to get a little streak going and win 3-4 in a row, separate ourselves from that bunch and continue to get better and play good basketball.”
Cohen on the other hand is just looking at one game at a time, “The Euroleague is so close and everyone is in playoff race right now, but I am not thinking about the big picture we want to get one win at a time.”
Katash also didn’t want to start looking to deep into the playoff picture, “Every game is important. I don’t think that at this stage in the Euroleague from my experience one needs to look at the standings. You need to get as many victories as possible and towards the end of the season we will see here we are.”