Two teams in opposed dynamics meet on Thursday when Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (6-11) hosts Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (9-8) at Menora Mivtachim Arena. This will be the fifth time that these teams play each other in the EuroLeague, with Maccabi in the lead for now, 3-2. The last time they met was in December when Zvezda took a commanding home win 83-58, behind a team effort led my Marko Simonovic and his 14 points and 5 rebounds. For Maccabi, DJ Seeley was the top scorer with 15 points. Maccabi is the fifth-best scoring team in the competition (80.6 ppg.), but so far, that figure is not translating into the number of wins that the team would like, having lost seven of its last eight games. On the other side of the spectrum, Zvezda is on a roll lately, with wins in five of its last six games, thanks especially to its fine defense, which only allows for 73.6 points per game, which is second-best in the league. Andrew Goudelock is the lead man on offense for the hosts (16.3 ppg., 3.3 apg.), with big contribution by Sonny Weems (12.1 ppg., 3.8 apg.) and veteran Devin Smith (10.8 ppg., 5.8 rpg.). For Zvezda, Simonovic is the leader of the team this season (12.9 ppg.), with help from Ognjen Kuzmic (10.2 ppg., 7.2 rpg.) and Charles Jenkins (8.8 ppg., 2.6 apg.). Maccabi shoots better than the visitors practically from everywhere, but to have a chance at this game it will need to regroup on defense and stay below the 84.2 points it allows per game to opponents. On the other side of the court, Zvezda leads the league in steals per game (8.4), which shows the kind of attitude this team steps on court with. Maccabi is still adjusting to the philosophy of Coach Ainars Bagatskis, but surely has the manpower to come out of the hole it's in, but the regular season progresses relentlessly, so the team from Tel Aviv has to bounce back soon. Zvezda's morale is through the roof after important wins against teams like Fenerbahce Istanbul, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow, but they were all at home, just like the blowout against Maccabi, so the visitors know that the game from last month will probably not repeat itself, especially in an atmosphere like the one in Tel Aviv.
Monday, January 16, 2017