|Le Mans will look to end its losing slide when it hosts a resurgent Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv in a Group A encounter on Thursday. Le Mans is winless this season and has already been mathematically eliminated from advancing to the Top 16. Meanwhile Maccabi is coming off its first road win of the season and enters the game in fourth place, but just one win behind the three teams tied for first. Le Mans has played better than its record would indicate – its first five losses all came by 5 points or less. However, in their last two games, head coach J.D. Jackson’s men have fallen apart and lost by more than 50 points combined. They will look to put that aside them against a Maccabi team that they almost beat in Tel Aviv before falling 82-80 in overtime. Maccabi will be shorthanded this time as center D’or Fischer, who led he team with 20 points in that win, is sidelined with a broken finger. But more important for Maccabi is that the team’s hottest player, Lior Eliyahu, continues his recent form. The forward has averaged 21 points and 13.5 rebounds in his last two games to lead Tel Aviv. He will not have an easy time scoring this week against Le Mans’s big and athletic frontline featuring Alain Koffi, Pape Badiane and Maleye Ndoye as well as J.P. Batista. Maccabi will look to Yaniv Green and newcomer Elton Brown to help make up for the loss of Fischer. An intriguing matchup will take place at small forward, where Le Mans’ David Bluthenthal will duel a player he knows well from his days at Maccabi, Omri Casspi. Meanwhile Maccabi head coach Pini Gershon can divvy up the minutes in his backcourt between Carlos Arroyo, Marcus Brown, Tal Burstein and Derrick Sharp as he looks to limit the damage that the trio of the high-scoring Dee Spencer, savvy playmaker Brian Chase and teenage defensive whiz Antoine Diot looks to inflict. Under Gershon, Maccabi is back to its high-scoring and running game style, while Le Mans has averaged 62.5 points in its last two games. If Maccabi controls the pace, it will be the clear favorite, however Le Mans has scorers too and a big night from Bluthenthal against his former teammates – he had 23 in Tel Aviv – or Spencer could turn this game into a thriller as Le Mans continues to seek that elusive first win.
- Forward David Bluthenthal spent three seasons and won the 2004 Euroleague title with Maccabi. He played for Maccabi last season, helping the club reach the Euroleague title game. Bluthenthal scored 385 points in 56 career Euroleague games with Maccabi, which ranks him 37th all-time on the club’s European scoring charts.
- The first double-figure rebounding effort of Alain Koffi’s career came against Maccabi. Koffi had 8 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots for Le Mans in a 74-71 loss last October.
- Big man J.P. Batista made his Euroleague debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv with Lietuvos Rytas last November. He came off the bench for 2 points and 4 rebounds in 10 minutes of an 18-point L. Rytas win.
- Guard Tal Burstein is closing in on 1,000 points for his Euroleague Basketball career. He enters this week’s game in Le Mans with 979 points in 131 career games. He also needs just 2 more three-pointers to reach 100 for his Euroleague career.
- Guard Marcus Brown is a two-time French League champion. He won the 1998 crown with Pau-Orthez and in 2000 with Limoges. Not a single player on the current Le Mans roster was a professional when Brown played in France.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008