Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv is still on the outside of the playoff spots looking in but the six-time continental champion's historic victory at CSKA Moscow on Friday in Round 18 showed that a much-awaited corner may have been turned.
Maccabi won 76-93 to grab its first triumph in Moscow since February 2004 and snapped a nine-game losing streak vs. CSKA dating back to its thrilling win in the 2014 Final Four semis. The 17-point margin tied Maccabi's biggest win this century vs. CSKA, and it was CSKA's worst home loss since 60-81 to FC Barcelona Lassa in November 2012.
Maccabi shrugged off a 16-4 early deficit as well as poor long range shooting (4 for 21, 19.1%) in playing tough defense, winning all the hustle plays and turning the ball over just 7 times. The team remained focused, and it showed as much by setting making a club-record 35 two-pointers with its second-best two-point accuracy this century at 74.5%.
Maccabi last played in the playoffs in 2014-15, when it was swept by Fenerbahce Istanbul 3-0. The team finished 10th last season and 14th in 2016-17. But Ioannis Sfairopoulos's Maccabi men have now won three of their last four games for a 7-11 record ahead of its next game against FC Barcelona. That contest will be at home, where Maccabi has won four of five including the last three. All that leaves Maccabi faithful hopeful that the corner has finally been turned.
"I said to the players after the game that we need to be humble, stay humble," Sfairopoulos said after the game in Moscow. "This is a big win, but that's all, nothing else. We have to go ahead and keep fighting. It's a good result, but we need to stay focused."