Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv comes off its first Israeli League and Cup double since 2014 and is ready to battle for a spot in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs for the first time since 2015. Maccabi fans have a great appreciation for history and are always geared up for big games against longtime rivals, but also respectful of the new kids on the block, too. Here are five high-anticipated showdowns for Maccabi this season.
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ROUND 6: a game for the ages
Maccabi and Zalgiris Kaunas will always be linked together since April 8, 2004. It was a do-or-die game for both teams to reach the Final Four and Zalgiris had the win in its pocket, leading 91-94 with 2.0 seconds left and 2 free throws by Giedrius Gustas, who was 17-of-17 that season before this game. Gustas missed both attempts, Maccabi got the ball back, Derrick Sharp forced overtime with an impossible shot and the rest is history. Fans never stop talking about it when Zalgiris visits Tel Aviv. What a game that was!
ROUND 11: a big homecoming
He made history with Olympiacos Piraeus and is in the process of doing the same with Maccabi. Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos helped Olympiacos win back-to-back Greek League titles in 2015 and 2016 and reached the EuroLeague championship game twice (2015 and 2017). Some of the players he coached during his four seasons with the club, such as Georgios Printezis, Kostas Papanikolaou and Kostas Sloukas, are either still with the team or have since returned to Olympiacos. Expect a familiar feeling before the game and a big battle after the tip-off.
ROUND 13: a classic showdown
It is the most repeated showdown in continental history. When Real Madrid and Maccabi meet again, it will be for the 63rd time. Appropriately, their 50th showdown was the 2014 EuroLeague championship game, in which Maccabi prevailed in overtime. Real had previously defeated Maccabi in the 1980 EuroLeague final. Maccabi has combined for 100 domestic league and cup titles and won 5 EuroLeague crowns. Real has 63 league and cup titles combined, and 10 EuroLeague trophies. Every game between these two teams is full of tradition and respect.
ROUND 19: a 21st-century rivalry
Maccabi and Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz have faced each other over 30 times this century and in some really important games. None as big as the 2005 EuroLeague championship game, in which Maccabi beat Baskonia 90-78. Maccabi also prevailed in the 2006 semifinals and the 2011 playoffs, stealing the home-court advantage to reach the Final Four. Baskonia has won in Tel Aviv seven times and is proud to be a fierce opponent. After back-to-back losses against Maccabi last season, Baskonia should look for more at Menora Mivtachim Arena.
ROUND 26: a battle of giants
It is always special when Maccabi faces CSKA Moscow. Some of the biggest games in Maccabi history came against the Russian powerhouse. Maccabi defeated CSKA in the EuroLeague semifinals in 2004 and 2014 and ended up lifting the trophy. CSKA bested Maccabi in the 2006 and 2008 EuroLeague championship games. It is a rivalry that goes back almost 50 years since the teams' first showdown in 1975. CSKA beat Maccabi twice last season and that should also be a factor when the teams meet at Menora Mivtachim Arena.