Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Baskonia on Gameday 29 of the Euroleague as the will look to keep their narrow chances of qualifying for the quarterfinal playoff round alive. The Yellow & Blue sport a 13-15 record good for 9th place while the Spanish team sits at 15-13 and currently finds themselves in the 8th and last playoff position. The Vitoria based team will be looking to punch their ticket for most probably a best of five series with CSKA while Maccabi will look to sweep the season series and add another win to their 74-68 Gameday 2 victory.
One of Baskonia’s guards Matt Janning is familiar with Maccabi Tel Aviv a bit more than the typical other opponents as he’s not only played Euroleague ball but also plied his trade for Hapoel Jerusalem during the 2015/16 season. The American guard grew up watching Michael Jordan and looked at him as a role model but also took things from watching Ray Allen and JJ Reddick in order to not only be a shooter but a scorer as well. The Watertown, Minnesota native who graduated from Northeastern University spoke to The Sports Rabbi about a myriad of topics as we began by looking back at his side’s topsy-turvy season to date:
“I think from the start of the season until now there is a big difference. The team has grown a lot and we are playing together both offensively and defensively and the success we have had in the Euroleague and in the ACB was kind of as expected so far.”
Pablo Prigioni began the campaign as Baskonia’s Head Coach but late in October he stepped down, opening the door for veteran Pedro Martinez who had guided Valencia over the past two seasons to take over the sidelines, “Coach Martinez influenced us by giving everybody a specific roll. He gave everybody their job and if you do that job then the team can win games. Everybody on the team bought into that system and you can see the differences that we made.”
Janning looked at the keys to the team’s success as well as they are on the cusp of advancing to the quarterfinals, “We just have to keep playing defense the way that we have been along with being aggressive and running on transition to get easy baskets and of corse it benefits us to play in front of our fans. We are in control of our own destiny to reach the playoffs and we need to continue playing like we have been playing.”
Playing in two of the best European competitions, the Euroleague and the Spanish League ACB presents a challenge to every baller as there are five teams featuring in both, “One week you can play a Euroleague game and then right after that you could have to play a Euroleague team in the ACB. Even if it’s not a Euroleague team from the ACB it’s still tough as we lost at the start and during the middle of the season to teams that are fighting for a playoff spot in the ACB. Those teams also have a lot of talent, play in strict systems and they know what they want to do when they are on the floor. That’s why it’s the best league in Europe.”