Maccabi Elite will look to create some positive momentum when it hosts Aris TT Bank on Thursday at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. Maccabi won its first game on the road this season last week and and comes into the game tied with Aris and Lietuvos Rytas for second place at 4-2 in Group B. Aris is also coming off a tough win after holding off Efes Pilsen last week. The two teams have a rich history against one another, dating back to 1966, but most of their matchups took place in the 1980s and early '90s, when players like Mickey Berkowitz and Kevin Magee led Maccabi against Aris of Nikos Gallis and Panagiotis Giannakis. However this will be their first official meeting in over 15 years. Maccabi has proven to be a very difficult opponent at home, where it has won six straight and 21 of its last 22 games. On the other hand head coach Gordon Herbert's Aris men have been there in every game – each of their six games has been decided by 7 points or less. Maccabi's biggest weakness this season has been the lack of a consistent scorer and a hierarchy within the team. Aside star center Nikola Vujcic, sidelined since Week 3 with a leg injury, no Maccabi player is averaging as many as 9 points per game, though nine players are averaging at least 6. Last week the hot hands belonged to guard Yotam Halperin, who scored a season-high 20, and big man Terrence Morris, who had 17 and the game-winning tip-in in the final seconds. The story is different at Aris where power forward Jeremiah Massey is the clear star and Bracey Wright and sixth-man Reyshawn Terry have well defined roles on offense. The makeup of the two teams creates some curious matchups, particularly in the paint, where Maccabi could try a number of players on Massey, including Morris, Marcus Fizer and even David Bluthenthal. At center, Maccabi's Esteban Batista will go head-to-head with Hanno Mottola. The Israeli champ's remarkable backcourt depth allows head coach Oded Kattash to uses a number of different looks, including many three-guard sets, as Vonteego Cummings, Halperin, Derrick Sharp, Alex Garcia and Will Bynum will look for the right recipe against Terrel Castle, Wright, Dimitrios Tsaldaris and Simonas Serapinas, the last of whom may see increased minutes with Georgios Kalaitzis sidelined. The keys for Maccabi could be slowing down the ever-present Massey and keeping Terry from controlling the small forward matchup. Meanwhile Castle will try to slow the tempo and create maximum scoring opportunities for his key guys. Though much time has passed, this game could generate the same intensity as the Maccabi/Aris battles of old, creating an exciting encounter with a spot near –or possibly at – the top of the group awaiting the winner.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007