Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Barcelona 76-71 in the Yellow & Blue’s final away game. Gal Mekel starred for the visitors with 18 points and 7 assists while Diamon Simpson picked up a double-double pulling down 12 boards and dropping 10 points.
Barcelona ran out to a 23-13 lead after ten minutes as an active Ante Tomic scored 5 points along with Stratos Perperoglou’s 6 points to lead the way for the hosts. Maccabi tried to cut in to the lead, however only did so by two points as the sides went into halftime with Barcelona holding an 8-point, 40-32 advantage. Aleksandar Vezenkov led the way in they second frame scoring 9 points while surprise package Nimrod Levi inspired the Yellow & Blue with 6 points of his own.
Maccabi further reduced the gap to just 4 points 58-54 after 30 minutes thanks to Gal Mekel as he raised his scoring total to 16 points while Petteri Koponen brought his game high to 12 points. The visitors looked to pull off the upset victory as the final ten minutes of play were neck and neck, but Mekel missed an off balance 3-point attempt with 4 seconds remaining and with the score sitting at 74-71 to hand the win to Barcelona.
1) Maccabi needs help at the guard position and fast. It’s incomprehensible to me to see a team like Maccabi travel to Barcelona with 1(!) point guard. I understand that there are injuries to Yogev Ohayon, DJ Seely and Andrew Goudelock and Sonny Weems is no longer on the club, but can we bring in someone who can ball handle? Is the goal to try and give the Yellow & Blue an even tougher chance to win? I know that some of the players will be back soon (other than Weems) but how is it possible to field a team like this? It’s been hard enough for coach Ainars Bagatskis and granted these games and meaningless, but it’s frustrating to see the players giving what they can but don’t have the man power for what it seems to be game in and game out.
2) Without players at Coach Bagatskis’s disposal even for a Euroleague game where Maccabi is already eliminated, I’m just hoping that this won’t hurt the team in the Israeli league as the Yellow & Blue sit tied for first place with Hapoel Holon. Not only are they level on points but Maccabi haven’t even won the Israeli title since the 2013-14 season! Where have the days gone when Maccabi was unbeatable winning the league championship year after year? Not only that, but Maccabi haven’t even appeared in the finals the past two years after getting knocked out beforehand. Sorry, but that is just unacceptable.
3) Diamon Simpson must be registered for the Israeli League. I understand that he is not a guard but he has been such a welcome addition to the team playing well at both ends of the floor and providing quality energy for a team that has been lacking that for some time. I’m not sure what else Simpson has to do to prove his worth, but he has been a force for the Yellow & Blue and a bright light in a dark season in Europe since be signed.
This week Eli Drikes spoke about making sure that Maccabi signs a top flight Euroleague coach for next year. The headline went flying all over the place quickly and of course current Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis was asked about it. He was diplomatic and said that he is only dealing with the present and not the future. That’s very nice but Maccabi need to be careful when talking especially when last year David Federman said that the roster would have 12 Euroleague players. Well, the Yellow & Blue certainly had more than 12 players who appeared in Europeague action, but I’m sure that’s not exactly what Federman had meant.
Ainars Bagatskis, Head Coach Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
“We had too many injuries tonight. We had big problems in the point guard position. I was not worrying too much about defense, but I worried about the way we would play offense. We did not have real point guards on the court. We lost a little bit in one-on-one defense, a little bit in Barcelona’s cuts to the baskets, and that gave Barcelona a small advantage. We fought, so no complaints for us. We were close the entire game. I think players from both teams did a good job fighting for victory in this game.”
Gal Mekel, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
“We are very disappointed. We felt that we could do it and we were so close in the last two or three possessions. Unfortunately, as has happened to us so many times in the EuroLeague this season, we were unable to win a close game. We were weak at the start and we paid a price for it because we had to chase them all game long with a short-handed roster. You could see that we really wanted to win and we battled. “