Published on : 12/28/2017
By : Arista Asmawati
Maccabi Tel Aviv completes the first half of the Euroleague regular season on Thursday night, aiming to defeat Unicaja Malaga at Yad Eliyahu Arena and strengthen its position in the top eight in the standings.
Despite ending last season’s campaign in 14th place from 16 teams and with just 10 wins from 30 games, Maccabi entered 2017/18 with the target of returning to the quarterfinal playoffs.
A victory on Thursday would see it improve to a 9-6 record and leave it well placed for a top-eight finish at the halfway mark of the regular season.
Maccabi claimed its most impressive win of the season to date last Thursday, proving that it can compete with the very best, at least at home, with an 82-73 victory over reigning Euroleague champion Fenerbahce.
After two road losses over five days at CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos, Maccabi hit the ground running against Fenerbahce, scoring 15 of the first 17 points of the night and never trailing.
The yellow-and-blue finally enjoyed excellent performances from Pierre Jackson and Norris Cole in the same game, with the backcourt duo combining for 39 points.
Jackson (14.4 ppg) and Cole (13.9 ppg, 4.1 apg) will be looking to dominate Malaga’s strong guards Nemanja Nedovic (14.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Ray McCallum, and may need to shoulder an even greater responsibility than usual with Maccabi missing injured sixth man Deshaun Thomas. Jonah Bolden and Michael Roll are expected to soak up most of his minutes, with Thomas, who is set to be out for at least three weeks, averaging 12.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game so far this season. Malaga enters the contest with a 6-8 record, but has won three games in a row, including at Barcelona.
“We are facing a very good team with a good coach,” said Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Neven Spahija. “We will come with the same attitude we showed against Fenerbahce. We will play hard from the first minute.
Malaga leads the Euroleague in offensive rebounds and scores a lot of three-pointers and we will need to stop that.
“I hope that Thomas’s absence doesn’t affect us too much,” added Spahija. “Other players will receive more minutes and I hope that our system continues to work.”