Maccabi Tel Aviv may have come up short 88-82 against perennial super power CSKA Moscow, but there were a number of good points to take away from their performance under new head coach Zan Tabak. After beginning the Euroleague season with a 1-4 record and a ticket to the Round of 16 in massive doubt, a date with the Russian side was the last thing the Yellow-and-Blue needed. But the schedule is what it is and you’ve got to deal with the cards you’re dealt with.
With Tabak now manning the sidelines, there will be plenty of cleanup to do from the days of Guy Goodes. Some of the mopping up, the Croatian will be able to deal with and put in order in due time, however there will be tons of other fundamentals that will take a bit longer.
The Yad Eliyahu arena was primed to welcome in the dawning of a new era as it was clear the players had already taken some of Tabak’s midweek instructions to heart by coming out and playing aggressively on the defensive end of the floor. Pressing from the get go and not giving the opposition free looks, especially in a lackluster first quarter earned cheers from the crowd as Maccabi ended the frame with a 5-point lead 18-13.
It was clear though, that even with a reenergized Maccabi, Jordan Farmar is a shell of the former player that once graced the Tel Aviv floor a few years ago. Unable to keep up with CSKA, missing easy shots that he would have made in the past, it was sad to see how the ex-NBA player plying his trade or at least attempting to do so. Subbed out midway through the first quarter, Farmar wouldn’t see the floor again until the start of the second half which Maccabi began a point off of the pace 38-37.
The third quarter looked like it was going to be a runaway by the visitors as CSKA tried to pull away from the hosts. But time and time again, Brian Randle (19pts), a sharp shooting Taylor Rochestie (20pts), Ike Ofoegbu (15pts) and a very quiet 15 points from Devin Smith kept the Yellow-and-Blue in the game heading into the final quarter down by only two 65-63.
However, CSKA showed their quality during the last ten minutes beating Maccabi to free balls, out shooting the hosts and running circles around a physically beat and tired team winning 88-82.
Did anyone truly believe that Maccabi would beat CSKA? No. Did some think that they would be a harder out for them? Absolutely, and that’s exactly what the fans got last evening, a team that looked interested, played responsible defense and kept up with the side from Moscow. Are their problems that Tabak will need to solve? Certainly and that begins with Maccabi’s number 1.
Jordan Farmar had a tough time against the likes of Nando De Colo (15pts & 5assists) and Vitaly Fridzon (12pts) not to mention the veteran presence of Milos Teodosic who totally sliced and diced the Maccabi team as a whole scoring 25 points going 5/9 from 3-point land while dishing out 5 helpers of his own.
Is Farmar Tabak’s only problem? Absolutely not. Even though Maccabi received an inspired performance by Yogev Ohayon who played phenomenal lock down defense while almost hitting double digits in assists, his scoring is suspect especially from three point range. The team’s physical conditioning is also something that is extremely worrying and Tabak railed about this at his post game press conference. He said the club is nowhere near what is needed to compete on a day in and day our basis and that was clearly seen during the last quarter.
On the plus side, watching Tabak run and manage the game was exactly what Maccabi needed. He was animated, encouraging and into every facet of every play constantly looking for feedback from assistant coach Avi Even.
With Tabak handing the keys to the Maccabi offense to Rochestie and Ohayon going forward, he’ll need to find a replacement for a worn out Farmar. He’ll also need to see what he can get out of Guy Pnini as well as his centers Trevor Mbakwe, Arinze Onuaku and Vitor Faverani (if anything at all from the Brazilian).
The road will be long and hard for Tabak and Maccabi but he looks to be the right man in the right situation to succeed. If he can somehow turn Maccabi around in the next month and advance to the Round of 16 he will be celebrated as a savior. However, time will tell.