Reigning champion Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv got stronger as the regular season progressed, winning five of its last six games to end the regular season and finishing second in its group. Devin Smith, the bwin MVP for month of December, was stellar with his all-round production and led the team in points and rebounds, while Brian Randle proved to be Maccabi’s newfound force around the basket and one of the competition's best shot blockers. In the backcourt, returnee Jeremy Pargo not only gave Maccabi points that added to a balanced attack, but often came through as a go-to-guy with games on the line.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The book on a modern day classic clashes between Maccabi Electra and Panathinaikos Athens will get two new chapters during this season’s Top 16, and we don’t even have to wait long to see them battle. The two powerhouses have met 18 times already this century – with five of those meetings coming at the Final Four stage and five more in a memorable Turkish Airlines Euroleague playoff series two years ago. They will clash again on opening night on December 30 at Olympic Sports Center Athens. Maccabi and Panathinaikos met during the regular season last year, with Maccabi sweeping the Greens.
GOING FORWARD: The champs had a strong finish to the regular season and will want to build on it. Smith and Randle deliver on both ends of the floor, the backcourt combo of Pargo and Yogev Ohayon combines to produce more than 10 assists per game, while Sylven Landesberg and MarQuez Haynes in the roles of x-factors aim to continue growing into bigger roles as season goes on. This team with many experienced winners, who relish rising to the occasion, can be expected to continue improving as the games get even bigger.