Maccabi Tel Aviv began its Top 16 Euroleague game against BC Khimki of Russia brightly enough. The opening tip-off was delayed 15 minutes after both teams got stuck on Moscow's snowbound highways, and it was the Israeli team that got into the groove first.
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David Blatt's side controlled the first quarter, which ended with Maccabi enjoying a promising 25-19 lead, but that was the high point for the Israeli champion. Khimki thawed out during the second quarter and by the start of the third was on fire. The game ended with Maccabi losing 88-67 - and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to add the word "only" to that score.
Maccabi can take some comfort from the fact that bigger and better teams have been beaten at Khimki's home arena this season. CSKA Moscow, Barcelona and Real Madrid have all come unstuck against the Russian team, which has now extended its home winning streak to 18. One can only imagine how good it would be without the distraction of unpaid wages and a strike threat by players.
Maccabi, on the other hand, has won just one of its four Top 16 games, and with reigning European champion Olympiacos the next to visit Yad Eliahu, Maccabi's European season is hanging in the balance.
"After a great first quarter, during which we enjoyed total control, we were completely out of the game in the remaining three quarters. It was a terrible game for us; there's no other way to describe it," Blatt said.
"We were undone by the 60 points that Khimki's bench players scored. We now need to pick ourselves up, fight for every ball and accept that we've fallen short of our goals for the season. This is our last chance to rectify the situation."