Everything will be on the line for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv when it visits already-eliminated Khimki Moscow Region in Russia on Friday. A loss combined with a home victory by either Zalgiris or Milan on Friday would leave Maccabi out of the playoffs race with a 12-16 record, so the visitors cannot afford another slip. Both teams will look to recover from defeats earlier this week. Khimki is on a five-loss streak and will look to give their fans some joy in their next-to-last home game this season. Maccabi lost its last two games and dug itself a hole that could be hard to get out of in such a close race for the remaining playoff spots.
Earlier this season
This will be the eighth time that these two teams meet in EuroLeague play, with Maccabi dominating the series 2-5. The last of those five wins arrived in Round 13, when Maccabi cruised at home, 79-63. Since-released Kendrick Ray led the winners with 17 points, followed by Scottie Wilbekin's 14 points. For Khimki, Jordan Mickey had 15 points and 7 rebounds. A 26-11 third quarter based on great shooting from beyond the arc allowed the hosts to break open a game that had been close until then.
Jordan Mickey and Tarik Black are having solid debut seasons in the EuroLeague. Mickey is coming off the bench to boost Khimki with 14.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25 appearances this season. Black is a mainstay in Maccabi's starting five with 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23 appearances. It will be a good chance to witness an interesting duel in the paint between two of the most productive big men this season.
Keys to victory: Khimki
With no options to advance to the playoffs, Khimki can play the spoiler role for Maccabi. The hosts average less than 30 rebounds per game, so they will have to pay good attention to that aspect if they want to have a shot at the win. Maccabi is the weakest team in the league from the foul line with less than 70% of shots made, so it could be a way to victory for the hosts if the guests visit that spot quite often.
Keys to victory: Maccabi
Maccabi has the whole season on the line in Moscow. A loss could send the guests out of the playoffs race for good, so tactics only will not suffice in this game, as heart and courage will play an important role, too. With both teams averaging less than 80 points this season, Maccabi will have to try to inject some more fluidity in its offense and get the second-worst 15.9 assists per game higher. The season numbers show that Maccabi should not count on the same scenario as in the first game, where threes saved the team from Tel Aviv, but the individual talent of names like Wilbekin, Black or Johnny O'Bryant could save the day for Maccabi.