Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Big Derby 100-74 at Yad Eliyahu as the Yellow & Blue swept all three regular season meetings between the teams. Gal Mekel starred for the hosts almost recording a triple-double, scoring 13 points while dishing out 9 assists and pulling down 8 rebounds while Captain Guy Pnini and Joe Alexander each added 14 points a piece in the win.
The Yellow & Blue led from the get go and totally dominated the Reds in what turned out to be a Demolition Derby. Maccabi had the upper hand in every department other than turnovers as they put the proverbial smack down on the visitors. Pnini had an active first half, scoring 11 points while Victor Rudd added 9 points and 7 rebounds as Maccabi ran out to a 19-point, 54-35 lead after twenty minutes. But it was Gal Mekel’s fine assists during the second half of the second quarter that paced the hosts. Richard Howell tried in vain to keep his team close with 14 points with very little help from his teammates.
Maccabi busted open the game in the third quarter, outscoring Hapoel 23-11 to take a 38-point lead at one point, as the Yellow & Blue defense made sure that the Reds had no thoughts of coming back into the game. The final ten minutes were primarily garbage time as Ido Levi scored his first points as a Maccabi player and the hosts cruised to a 26-point win, 100-74.
1) Maccabi shot an impressive 24/40 for 60% from two and 13/28 for 46% from beyond the arc for the game with percentages even higher in the first half. Add to that 20 second chance points thanks to a rebounding advantage of 49 to 24 and you get a tremendous performance from the first place team who were knocked out of Euroleague playoff contention. Once we’re onto stats, Gal Mekel had a marvelous 25+ minutes almost collecting a triple-double while recording an index of 25. Of course we can’t forget about the 27 assists that the team supplied on the offensive side of things as Mekel showed that he is truly a star with a third of those.
2) As well as Maccabi played, both DJ Seely and Sylven Landesberg shot only 2/8 from the field and that’s a bit concerning. Granted Seely finished the game with a team high +31, both of these players must get into the rhythm for the Yellow & Blue to have a chance to take the league championship. There’s been talk about Landesberg not being happy at Maccabi and may look to leave, however, this would be a terrible move for the team should they allow that to happen. They need number 15 playing at his best in order for the team to make as much noise as possible.
3) Raviv Limonad is a shell of his former self. The Israeli international is nowhere near the player he once was. The one who took control of the game, the one who could slice and dice to the basket, the one who was a threat from anywhere on the court. In fact, it was sad to see Limonad play 27 minutes, go 2/6, score only 4 points and finish the game with a game low -36. It was a depressing display from a onetime star in the Israeli League and I only wish he can rekindle his old magic and become the player that he once was. The league needs stars, especially Israeli ones.
I asked Maccabi Tel Aviv Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis about the rain of shots hitting the target and asked him how he felt about it. He said that he changed things up and moved the practice time, plus he said that they must have eaten well before the game. I guess those things worked, but I believe that every time Maccabi sees Hapoel on the court, especially Pnini or Mekel, it just brings out the best in them. Pnini who also scored his 3,000th point, was lethal in the first two quarters pacing the Yellow & Blue attack and really sparking the outburst that led to the blowout victory.