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Maccabi Tel Aviv completed Euroleague's biggest comeback - Apr 7, 2013


POSTED BY:
ALAN WATERS
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Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv is without a doubt one of the best clubs of the European basketball. Maybe the most stable club throughout the last 40-50 years, a club which almost always is in the European top and the best Israeli team almost since the Israeli league has been established. The trophy case of Maccabi includes 5 times European champions, twice in the last 9 years, a club which created one of the best basketball dynasty of European basketball which included players like Micky Berkowitz, Lou Silver, Tal Brody, Jim Botright, Aulcie Perry, Anthony Parker, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Nicola Vucic & Maceo Baston and legendary coaches like Ralph Klein & Pini Gershon. In Israel there is a word which called "Maccabism". The translate is to win in any cost. The Maccabism is to be the best you can, never to give up even when everything looks hopeless, to be the greatest winners. And it appears that this word describes exactly Maccabi's current team which made maybe the biggest comeback ever in European basketball. It may be the most average team of Maccabi in the past 15 years, but also maybe the one with the biggest heart.

Unlike The rest of the major clubs in Europe, Maccabi always keeps on economic sanity and the only club that always be at the top of the European basketball. CSKA Moscow, Regal FC Barcelona, Real Madrid & Panathinaikos Athens are always had their ups and downs, but Maccabi was always managed correctly and was a role model for the rest of the clubs. Maccabi is the proof that you dont have to spend 40M to take the club to the final four, unlike Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul who had a huge failure this season after their big investment. This Summer it seemed that Maccabi will have one of the weakest seasons in the past years according the events which happened since the summer break. It started with Yogev Ohayon (187-PG-87)'s saga, who signed at first in Lokomotiv Kuban, claiming that he is a free agent, saga which continued throughout the summer and effected on the teams buildup. Continued with the fact that the management couldn't sign players that were on target, usually because of economic gap, just like Keith Langford (193-SG-83, college: Kansas) & Richard Hendrix (204-C/F-86, college: Alabama) who left the club and signed with EA7 Emporio Armani Milano for the same reason. Pops Mensah-Bonsu (206-F-83, agency: SportsTalent, college: G.Washington) was signed and supposed to be the big name for the summer but in his medical exams it appeared that his injury was more serious then it looked at first. Finally he was cut and Malcolm Thomas (206-C-88, college: San Diego St.) from the NBDL was signed instead. Maccabi singed players that usually weren't the leaders in their clubs like David Logan (185-G-82, college: Indianapolis) and Giorgi Shermadini (216-C-89) or inexperienced players in the Euroleague like Ricky Hickman (189-PG-85, college: NC-Greensboro), Sylven Landesberg (198-F/G-90, college: Virginia), Moran Roth (178-PG-82, agency: Avi Zilberman) and Niklas Caner-Medley (203-F-83, agency: Beo Basket, college: Maryland). At the end, by the way, Ohayon's saga had a happy ending and the player signed on a new contract with Maccabi.

Luckily, Maccabi's draw in the first stage wasn't difficult, the opposite. Maccabi was drawn to the easiest group and the fans thought that if the team is new, at least the chemistry will be built vs. average clubs other then strong ones and Maccabi indeed finished the first stage in first place with 8 wins and only 2 loses, without too much problems and without great basketball. Maccabi lost at home to Unicaja Malaga and away in Montepaschi Siena but they were possitive that the team will finish the top 16 in places 1-4 and qualify for the top 8. During the break Maccabi released center Giorgi Shermadini who didn't fulfill the expectations from him and 22-years-old Darko Planinic was signed instead, but at least according the top 16 stats, this sign didn't justify itself as well. Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv opened the top 16 in the worst way anyone could imagine when the first round they win only twice and lose 5 matches, including 3 matches at home. Two loses at home in the first 5 matches is very rare, it something that even the oldest fans don't remember. The home loss to Regal FC Barcelona which closed a very poor first round didn't surprise but now the target for everyone was cristal clear: To finish the top 16 with self respect, now that the remaining 7 matches will be almost meaningless, when the chances to qualify are very low. It was the target for everyone except one: coach David Blatt (agency: Beo Basket ), who wasn't shy to declare that the team will fight for the qualification. Everyone thought that Blatt gone crazy, what are the odds that this average team will win at least 6 out of their remaining 7 matches? But David had full confidence in his players. Malcolm Thomas was cut from the team due to his disappointing performances and the huge comeback officially began.

With 2 wins and 5 loses, Maccabi opened the second round and started the journey to return their self respect and there's nothing like to do it at Nokia arena in front of 11,500 fans. Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv, maybe in their best game of the season, overwhelmed Montepaschi Siena 92-61, a huge victory which added so much for the morale of the team but there's still long way to go. The next match was in Spain vs. Caja Laboral Vitoria who won in Tel Aviv by one point. After performance of much more war and less basketball, the players in Yellow came out once again as the winners and with bigger gap then what they lost in Tel Aviv. The next victim was Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, who didnt recover from their poor season and despite the sparkle names in their squad, lost at home to Maccabi, who achieved their 3rd win in a raw. All of a sudden, even the most pessimistic fans started to believe, faith which getting stronger when Maccabi achieved their 4th win in a raw over BC Khimky Moscow Region at Nokia arena. One week later, Maccabi traveled to Greece for their most important game of the season, vs. Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus. Maccabi gave their best first half of the season and amazed the European champions with 41-23 lead at the break. The gap was almost disappeared in the second half, but Devin Smith (196-G/F-83, college: Virginia) with a huge match, secure an amazing victory for Maccabi. The top 8 was suddenly looked very close, when Maccabi crushed Besiktas Istanbul 101-58 at Nokia arena and got their 6th win in a raw, but even 6 wins out of 6 games werent enough to secure the qualification.

For the last fixture of the top 16, five clubs fought over 3 places when Maccabi had the most difficult test: to play vs. Regal FC Barcelona in Spain. But Maccabi with a huge momentum gave a great fight to the Spanish giant but lost only few seconds to the end, 71-74. Despite the loss, the players could celebrate their qualification to the next round, since Khimky lost in Greece and was eliminated. The most impressive comeback ever in the Euroleague was completed: From total of 2 wins and 5 loses after the first round, Maccabi finished the top 16 with 8 wins and 6 loses and a dramatic qualification for the top 8. The comeback is much more impressive when we taking in consider that Maccabi isn't one of the most richest clubs in Europe or with the most sparkle squad. But the "Maccabism" was inside of these players all the time and it exploded in the second round all the way to the top 8 and for the series vs. Real Madrid.

Now no one is gamble against Maccabi. Everyone understands that this team is not depending on one or two players, because as a team they can explode anytime, anywhere. Maccabi is till the underdog vs. Real, but surely will make difficult time for the Blancos. Two months ago the top 8 seemed as an impossible dream and now, with a huge positive momentum, when the players are looking really good, they can see London getting much closer.
  




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Euroleague Standings
 1 Real Madrid 23-7 
 2 CSKA 22-8 
 3 Olympiacos 19-11 
 4 Panathinaikos 19-11 
 5 Fenerbahce 18-12 
 6 Anadolu Efes 17-13 
 7 Baskonia 17-13 
 8 Darussafaka 16-14 
 9 Crvena Zvezda 16-14 
 10 Zalgiris 14-16 
 11 FC Barcelona 12-18 
 12 Galatasaray 11-19 
 13 Brose Bask. 10-20 
 14 Maccabi T-A 10-20 
 15 EA7 Armani 8-22 
 16 Unics 8-22 
Stats Leaders
Points Per Game
 Keith LANGFORD
  Unics
  (193-SG-83)
  Avg: 21.8
 1. Langford, Unics21.8 
 2. De-Colo, CS.19.1 
 3. Goudelock, Maccabi .17.3 
 4. Wanamaker, Darussaf.16.7 
 5. Llull, Real Madrid16.5 
 6. Teodosic, CSKA16.1 
 7. Bogdanovic, Fener.14.6 
 8. James, Panathin.13.1 
 9. Larkin, Baskonia13.1 
 10. Rice, FC Barcelona13.0 
Rebounds Per Game
 Ekpe UDOH
  Fenerbahce
  (208-F/C-87)
  Avg: 7.8
 1. Udoh, Fenerbahce7.8 
 2. Melli, Brose Bask.7.4 
 3. Honeycutt, Anadolu .7.3 
 4. Kuzmic, Crvena Z.7.0 
 5. Voigtmann, Basko.7.0 
 6. Zizic, Darussafaka6.7 
 7. Dorsey, FC Barce.6.3 
 8. Dunston, Anadolu .6.2 
 9. Jankunas, Zalgiris6.1 
 10. Tomic, FC Barce.5.9 
Assists Per Game
 Milos TEODOSIC
  CSKA
  (195-PG-87)
  Avg: 6.8
 1. Teodosic, CSKA6.8 
 2. Spanoulis, Olympiacos6.1 
 3. Llull, Real Madrid5.9 
 4. Larkin, Baskonia5.7 
 5. Colom, Unics5.7 
 6. Jovic, Crvena Z.5.7 
 7. Guler, Galatasaray5.6 
 8. Heurtel, Anadolu .5.6 
 9. Calathes, Panathin.5.5 
 10. Westermann, Zalgiris5.5 
Steals Per Game
 Charles JENKINS
  Crvena Z.
  (191-SG-89)
  Avg: 2.1
 1. Jenkins, Crvena Z.2.1 
 2. Calathes, Panathin.1.5 
 3. Wanamaker, Darussaf.1.5 
 4. Lazic, Crvena Z.1.4 
 5. Wilbekin, Darussafaka1.4 
 6. Larkin, Baskonia1.3 
 7. Jovic, Crvena Z.1.3 
 8. Guler, Galatasaray1.3 
 9. Hanga, Baskonia1.3 
 10. Fernandez, Real M.1.2 
Blocks Per Game
 Ekpe UDOH
  Fenerbahce
  (208-F/C-87)
  Avg: 2.2
 1. Udoh, Fenerbahce2.2 
 2. Tyus, Galatasaray1.5 
 3. Pleiss, Galatasaray1.2 
 4. Parakhouski, Unics1.2 
 5. Dunston, Anadolu .1.1 
 6. Randolph, Real Madrid1.1 
 7. Singleton, Panathin.1.0 
 8. Birch, Olympiacos1.0 
 9. Honeycutt, Anadolu .0.9 
 10. Kirk, Anadolu Efes0.9 
Poll

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