Maccabi Tel Aviv lost any real hope of reaching the Euroleague playoffs long ago. A run of nine defeats from 10 games over a two-month stretch basically rendered the final third of Maccabi’s regular season as meaningless.
The yellow-and-blue continued to maintain a mathematical chance of finishing in the top eight in the standings and advancing to the quarterfinals over the past few weeks, but never had any doubt it was fighting a losing battle.
Last week’s 92-82 win over Olimpia Milano kept Maccabi’s lingering hopes alive for one more week, but any illusion that Tel Aviv will make the playoffs will end on Thursday night should it lose to Efes Istanbul in Turkey.
Efes currently sits in eighth place with a 13-12 record, four games ahead of Maccabi (9-16). A win for the Turks on Thursday would leave Maccabi five games back of the final ticket for the playoffs with four games to play.
A Tel Aviv victory, on the other hand, would bring it to within three games of eighth position, but all but certainly just delay the inevitable.
Efes beat Maccabi 86-77 in Tel Aviv when they first met this season and is desperate for another win on Thursday as it looks to edge closer to clinching its spot in the post-season. Istanbul boasts the third-best offense in the competition (84.6 points per game), while Maccabi is below 80 points on average. The defenses of both teams are among the weakest in the Euroleague, with Maccabi conceding fewer than 80 points only twice in its past 16 games.
Maccabi plays the first of four games over eight days on Thursday, including three in the Euroleague. But if the yellowand- blue could win only one of its next four games, its fans would likely pick Sunday’s derby showdown with Hapoel Tel Aviv.
The yellow-and-blue holds a one-game lead over Hapoel Holon at the top of the BSL standings entering the final third of the regular season, but as always, the derby will be more about local pride than two more points in the table.
Maccabi then returns to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce on Tuesday before hosting Zalgiris Kaunas two days later in what will in all likelihood be no more than a glorified scrimmage for the yellow- and-blue.
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