Anadolu Efes hosts Maccabi with lead in Group C at stake

Anadolu Efes hosts Maccabi with lead in Group C at stake

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Anadolu Efes hosts Maccabi with lead in Group C at stake

Anadolu Efes hosts Maccabi with lead in Group C at stake. AFP photo

Istanbul will witness a fight between two Turkish Airlines Euroleague powerhouses tonight when Anadolu Efes hosts Maccabi Electra.

Both teams are part of a three-way tie atop the standings with two wins in three games, so the winner will take an important not only toward making the top 16, but also toward winning Group C.

“We will play against a team which played at the Final Four last year and is fighting for the top like us in our group,” Anadolu Efes coach Ufuk Sarıca told the Euroleague’s official website.

“It is a very important game for us, which may affect the ranking in the group. So we absolutely want to win. To stay at the top in our group we must not lose at home,” added Sarıca.

Maccabi leads the 2011-12 Euroleague in fewest turnovers – 24 in three games – but Efes is one of the leading teams in steals with nine per game.

Anadolu Efes center Sasha Vujacic will rely on the home crowd for success.

“This will be the first game at Sinan Erdem Arena in front of our big crowd, [and we] expect them to be our sixth player,” said Vujacic.

“Obviously we are going to play against a great team. They also played in last year’s Final Four. It will be a tough game so we have to find a way to protect our home court and get the victory,” he said.

Maccabi coach David Blatt, who earlier coached the Istanbul club, said it would be tough to play in a city where the Final Four will be held.

“This will be a different kind of game, not only because we’re not playing at home, but also because it’s against a very strong team with an impressive roster and, most significantly, a team that will be hosting this year’s Final Four,” said Blatt.

“The team we’ll face on Thursday is a great team; it should be an attractive and enjoyable game, and a very competitive one. I hope that we’ll be the ones with the upper hand at the end of the day,” he added.

Also tonight, in a highly-anticipated match-up for first place in Group B, Panathinaikos hosts CSKA Moscow in a Turkish Airlines Euroleague classic. Panathinaikos and CSKA have combined for five of the last six Euroleague titles and faced each other in Euroleague finals in 2007 and 2009 in contests that were both won by the Greek side. The two are undefeated this season, adding further importance to the showdown.

“For the past decade Panathinaikos is probably the main opponent for CSKA in the Euroleague competition,” said CSKA Moscow coach Jonas Kazlaukas. “We are anxious to play this game, because Panathinaikos is our number-one opponent; we will be able to see our real level. I am sure it will be interesting to watch.”