Maccabi Tel Aviv (12-12, 10th place) hosts Bayern Munich (9-15, 14th place) Thursday (21:05 IST / 14:05 EST) in their must-win round 25 EuroLeague clash at Yad Eliyahu. It’s a return to EuroLeague action after a week off for the various state cup competitions. For Maccabi it was a week to forget, after they lost the Israeli State Cup final in our capital city to Hapoel Jerusalem 61-67, in a performance which Maccabi coach Oded Katash described as “simply a terrible day offensively”. Their opponents Thursday, on the other hand, won their 4th German State Cup in a 90-78 victory over Baskets Oldenburg.
After last round’s disappointing 86-89 home loss to Red Star Belgrade, Maccabi finds itself in a challenging position, likely needing to win 7 of the next 10 in order to make the playoffs.
“After the cup week, this is another very important game for us,” Maccabi coach Katash said yesterday. “We are facing Bayern, we saw that they just won the German Cup in an impressive way. They’re playing really well lately. They are a really well-coached team – a good defensive team – so it’s going to be challenging tomorrow.”
“We know we’re in a tough position right now,” Maccabi forward Jarell Martin recognized. “We need to bounce back from the last couple of games that we lost, but we’re definitely focused on getting better and finishing strong.”
“The message that we’re trying to focus on this week and moving forward is that we’re moving on,” Maccabi center Suleiman Braimoh concurred. “Take that loss, take that pain, bottle it up, learn from it, feel it and try to channel it in the right way to help us to prepare to do better things for the rest of the season.”
While Bayern would need a miracle to get to the playoffs, they can still shape the standings in the games left in the regular season. They will feel confident given their good recent form, which will help give them belief that they can get their first European road win in more than a month. “We obviously had a lot of energy left over the weekend,” Bayern coach Andrea Trinchieri said in advance of the game. “I hope that the euphoria of winning the cup will give us enough strength for a good performance.”
These two teams last tipped off in Munich at the beginning of December, a game which the Germans won 98-89. While there were many lows for the Yellow & Blue in that game, arguably the biggest concern was Bayern’s dominance on the boards: they won the rebounding battle 34-24, and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, which gave them the opportunity for repeat attempts to score. Maccabi’s bigs were particularly disappointing in that game – Josh Nebo, Alex Poythress (who is still out injured) and Roman Sorkin (who suffered an injury to his lip earlier this week in Maccabi’s Israeli league 99-76 win over Herzliya, with Katash indicating that he hopes he’ll be ok to play tonight) – managing only four rebounds in total.
Lorenzo Brown – who was the highlight for Maccabi in the last fixture in Munich, with performance index rating of 43 and a scoring 36 points (both game highs) – is still playing back into form after recovering from the ankle injury that he suffered in Maccabi’s 87-74 victory over ALBA Berlin, with fans hoping that he can return to form in his first EuroLeague outing in more than a month.
“Lorenzo is still suffering with some pain, but nothing that is putting him at risk [for the game].” Katash said, confirming that the plan is for his star point guard to dress for this evening’s game.
In their loss to Red Star two weeks ago, Maccabi’s defense was inconsistent and loose, evident by Nemanja Nedovic scoring 6/9 from beyond the arc. They will need to be more focused tonight, especially when they have the likes of Andreas Obst (who scored 3/4 from 3 against Maccabi in December) – one of the and Vladimir Lucic (who was injured in the last game between the teams, but scored 5/6 from 3 in Bayern’s State Cup win last week).
“They have four dominant guards plus Obst, who is maybe one of the top three shooters in the EuroLeague,” Katash said. “There are also lots of challenges that Trinchieri presents. We saw it in the last game against them over there, the one-on-one game, although they had a crazy day shooting from 3, I hope that this game will be more in our favor.”
Can Maccabi get the W tonight and make a strong run to the playoffs? Martin certainly things so: “The group of guys we’ve got, we’re all competitive players, winning is important to us. I definitely feel like it’s something we can achieve.”