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Cliches: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Red Star

Dov Halickman Photography

Maccabi is in a “Do or Die” situation with their “Backs against the wall” in a “Must Win” game where it’s “Now or Never” as they ready themselves to face Red Star Belgrade Thursday night 21:05 at Yad Eliyahu. I think we all know the cliches fairly well when a team is about to be eliminated from postseason play.

With a 6-11 record, Yellow & Blue hoops have 13 games left in the Euroleague regular season to try and rectify their current predicament with a necessity to go at least 9-4 in those remaining contests to finish an admirable .500 at 15-15 to have a decent shot at reaching the playoffs. Red Star is a must win in every sense of the word and the players have to come out to battle every single second of the game if they have any dreams of playing deep into April and May.

Coach Ainars Bagatskis came aboard a few weeks ago and called his first few games the preseason for him to see what goods and services he’s got. Well now he knows exactly what he has in hand and he’ll have to use everything at his disposal to find a way to pick up an all important W.

Looking at the last 13 games on Bagatskis’s slate and where Maccabi will need to find 9 victories, there’s no question that this is one of them. In order for his motley crew to win, the formula seems quite simple as Bagatskis said, “We have to be patient for the full 40 minutes and don’t rush it. Every shot is important, every minute is important, every action is important, every execution defensive wise is important. Everything is important.”

If you’ve been following the Euroleague it’s more than true that every single shot, minute, action and defensive execution is important and extremely valuable. Once the play is over, time has elapsed off of the clock and you have one less point in time to score points. Every single possession MUST be played like it’s the last one of the game. Each shot clock has to be treated like gold and the players need to understand that, because should they get a lead, they can’t give it up. They must stay cool, calm and collected.

Simple? Sure, except the question still remains, can the team actually follow the directions? Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to up until now, blowing lead after lead, game after game, not knowing how to close out a win. There’s no “Killer Instinct”. If this Maccabi team has character, now’s the time for them to show it because it’s “Now or Never”.

It’s certainly a “Do or Die” situation as the Yellow & Blue have to take each game as it comes as Bagatskis commented, “We have to play for the next moment. We have to practice, play, sleep, eat and nothing else. That is what our schedule is supposed to be. That is what professionals do.”

The coach is really challenging the character of the team as their “Backs are against the Wall” questioning whether the players are true professionals. Playtime is over. It’s time to get to work and play for the honor of Maccabi. Can they?

I certainly think they can and so does Colton Iverson. The big man explained to me, “We got to play with a sense of urgency. Every game matters and we still have a great chance. We’re not that many games out of a playoff spot. We have to win or we won’t advance, our goal is to advance.”

Couldn’t agree with Number 24 more. This is it. There’s no more turning back. There’s no more excuses. There’s no more second chances. If Maccabi can’t defeat Red Star at home, then truthfully, do they even deserve to make it to the playoffs?