Once again thanks to Yarone Arbel for this great series of articles about “his” team Maccabi Tel Aviv.
History-wise … Maccabi couldn’t hope for a better opponent in the semi-finals than Montepaschi. In eight encounters so far, all in recent years, Maccabi has beat the Italian bank eight times.
In fact, most of these games have been tattooed in the memories of Maccabi fans. There was the first buzzer-beater made by Saras in a Maccabi uniform. Another came a year later when the same Saras on the same court against the same team made his first three pointer of the night, after eight misses prior, exactly in the last seconds to put Maccabi on top.
Yet another: Down in Siena, the game was decided after Anthony Parker hit a three pointer plus a free throw shot (a rare scene by itself) in the last seconds.
One more was in the 2002-03 season, when Maccabi came to Siena after a steak of three losses in four days (Back then, they played the Adriatic League between Euroleague and Israeli league games); coach David Blatt was about to get a one-way ticket, but the win in Siena put the team back on track.
Last, and funniest of all, was in 2004-05 when Vrbica Stefanov got the ball under the basket, WIDE OPEN, for a simple layup with his team down by three and less than 20 seconds to play, but he managed to miss it like a five-year-old girl and Maccabi won again.
The players who were active then and are still around today are Bootsy and Eze for Montepaschi, while Maccabi has Vujcic, Burstein (rarely used), Sharp (ditto) and Halperin (he was hardly used back then).
Tomorrow, the next article by Yarone: Maccabi Tel Aviv’s momentum.