|A clash with major Top 16 implications in Group A takes place on Thursday when Air Avellino hosts Maccabi Electra. Avellino will be out to leapfrog Maccabi for forth place in the group – the last spot that leads to a berth in the Top 16, while Maccabi knows that a win would bring the club to the verge of clinching a spot in the next round. The hosts are 2-4 this season having won each of their last two home games. But head coach Zare Markovski’s men are coming off their worst defeat so far, a 25-point thrashing at Olympiacos. Meanwhile Maccabi is 3-3, but gaining strength now that head coach Pini Gershon has already been with the club for two whole weeks. The club outlasted Cibona last week thanks to a big game from Lior Eliyahu, who scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed a career-best 17 rebounds last week as he earned the Euroleague weekly MVP honor. It was different Maccabi player that shined when these teams met in Tel Aviv in Week 2 as Carlos Arroyo produced 20 points and 8 steals to lift the hosts to a 90-83 decision. If Avellino is ahead in the fourth quarter, the 7-point differential from that game will play a major role as a potential head-to-head tiebreaker. Avellino will be ready for Maccabi’s top weapons with a host of experienced players. Travis Best and Antonio Porta will challenge Arroyo at point guard, with Drake Diener and perhaps at time the club’s top scorer Chris Warren ready to stop Maccabi shooter Marcus Brown or do-it-all swingman Tal Burstein. Forward Tamar Slay has the skills to guard Eliyahu in what could amount to one of the keys to the game for both teams. D’Or Fischer is Macani’s main reference in the paint with Yaniv Green scheduled to spell him against Eric Williams and Andrea Crosariol. Marko Tusek and Nikola Radulovic add size, experience and versatility up front, which Omri Casspi and newcomer Elton Brown may be asked to deal with. The 80-point mark could be a good indicator of the outcome for this game. Avellino has won both games in which it has held its opponent to less than 80, while Maccabi is 3-0 when scoring at least 80. The experience factor gives Maccabi and Gershon an advantage in this potentially make-or-break encounter, however with nearly two-thirds of the season now in its rear-view mirror, Avellino will be ready for the challenge, making this game one not to miss.
- Guard Antonio Porta has squared off against Maccabi’s Carlos Arroyo in national team competition in the Americas. Porta is a member of the Argentinean national team and Arroyo plays for Puerto Rico. They last met at the FIBA Americas 2007 tourney in Las Vegas where Porta won a silver medal and Arroyo a bronze.
- Forward Tamar Slay is no stranger to big games against Maccabi. His first stop in Europe was with Maccabi’s main rival in Israel, Hapoel Jerusalem, where he spent a season-and-a-half.
- Big man Eric Williams recorded season lows in points (5), rebounds (2), playing time (15:50) and index rating (4) in the game in Tel Aviv against Maccabi.
- Guard Drake Diener of Air Avellino scored 13 points in the game in Tel Aviv. That was the first and only time he scored in double figures in his Euroleague career. He also recorded career bests in assists (3), steals (2) and three-pointers (3) in that game.
- Guard Mike Nardi had his best Euroleague game so far with 10 points in 14 minutes last week against Olympiacos.
- Swingman Tal Burstein needs just 2 more three-pointers to reach 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Guard Marcus Brown played for Italian powerhouse Benetton Treviso during the 2000-01 season. He is the only current Maccabi player with experience in the Italian League.
- Guard Carlos Arroyo’s best game of the season so far came against Avellino. In the game in Tel Aviv, he recorded career highs in points (20), assists (8) and index rating (33).
- In the seasons that Pini Gershon has started at Maccabi, his record against Italian teams stands at 22-4. Two of the losses were in Tel Aviv, both of Fortitudo Bologna, while Scavolini Pesaro and Olimpija Milano had the honor to be the only teams to beat Maccabi, under Gershon, on Italian soil.
- 16 of those 26 games of Gershon against Italian teams were decided by up to 7 points. One of them went to double overtime, another to a single overtime and seven were decided by a single basket.
- On the other hand, when Gershon took over the Maccabi's bench in mid-season, in the 1998-99 season, his record against Italian teams was one win and three losses.
- Two of Maccabi's biggest wins in the Euroleague were under Gershon against Italian teams. In the 2004-05 season, Maccabi slashed Scavolini Pesaro 123-73 win in Tel Aviv. And in the 2004 Euroleague championship game, Maccabi destroyed Fortitudo Bologna 118-74.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008