After two road losses over five days, Maccabi Tel Aviv could hardly be happier to return to Yad Eliyahu Arena on Thursday night. That joy, however, will be somewhat dampened by the prospect of facing reigning Euroleague champion Fenerbahce and its indomitable coach Zeljko Obradovic.
Maccabi dropped to its third straight double-digit road defeat in continental play on Tuesday night, falling to a 7-6 record following an 89-76 defeat to Panathinaikos in Athens. The yellow-and-blue has won only two of six road games in all, suffering humbling losses in its last three.
Maccabi was defeated by 15 points at CSKA Moscow last Friday after losing its previous road game in Barcelona by 22 points.
Tel Aviv’s main struggles over recent games have been on the defensive end. Maccabi has allowed an average of 88.8 points over its last five Euroleague encounters, and that includes two home victories over Zalgiris Kaunas and Valencia.
Over its first eight games, Tel Aviv allowed just 75.9 points per contest.
“We have to do a lot more to get to this level,” said Maccabi coach Neven Spahija following the defeat to Panathinaikos.
“Every time we came close we made stupid mistakes. If you want to play against such good teams you need extra, not less.”
Obradovic actually lost in his last visit to Yad Eliyahu, with Maccabi stunning Fenerbahce last November. The Turks improved to a 9-4 record on Tuesday, crushing Red Star Belgrade 82-56 for their fifth win from the past six games. The easy win allowed Obradovic to rest players ahead of the trip to Tel Aviv, with no player on court for more than 29 minutes.
Maccabi’s Deshaun Thomas, who was held to nine points in Athens, believes the team has learned from the defeats to CSKA and Panathinaikos.
“It is little details we need to work on, but we were right there,” he explained. “Our responsibility is to get over that hump and go out there more ready and focused. It is very important to bounce back.
Especially as we have the Euroleague champions from last year coming in. They are a good team, but we have to protect our home court.”