Maccabi Tel Aviv ended its disappointing Euroleague campaign with an 81-61 loss to Panathinaikos as the Yellow & Blue finished with a 10-20 record.
The hosts played well over the first half and took a 42-32 lead into the half thanks to Victor Rudd’s 14 points, Joe Alexander’s 8 points and Gal Mekel’s 6 assists. However, the second half was a totally different story as the Greeks demolished Tel Aviv 49-19 to end up coasting to an easy victory. After a scoreless first half Mike James lit up Yad Eliyahu with 17 points while Chris Singleron chipped in with 13 points to go along with 6 of the team’s 15 steals to secure home court advantage.
1) Mercifully, Maccabi’s Euroleague season came to an end after getting manhandled by Panathinaikos. The poor second half display was basically a microcosm of the Yellow & Blue’s Euroleague campaign showing, showing little on the court with a very weak defense along with being short on ability as well as effort after a quality first 20 minutes. I believe that Joe Alexander summed up the continental season accurately: “They came out with more urgency (in the 2nd half) and they wanted it more and we responded by not caring, and that persisted to the end of the game. It was a 20 minute reflection of our entire season, not good.”
2) What makes the 49-19 second half for Panathinaikos even more disturbing is how Maccabi just let the onslaught go on and on and on as a 22-3 run from the 6:04 mark left in the 3rd quarter just never seems to end. Alexander nailed a 3-pointer to make the score 48-38 giving the hosts a comfortable 10 point lead but then all hell broke loose. Panathinaikos nailed almost every shot attempt after going an abysmal 1/15 from behind the arc in the first half and actually ended the contest shooting 10/33 from 3 and 23/34 from 2 for a solid 68%. YIKES!
3) Maccabi’s got to put this game and Euroleague adventure aside and quickly because the Israeli league is now the remaining competition. The Yellow & Blue sit in first place, but just barely due to a better point differential than Hapoel Holon a team who they lost to less than two weeks ago. There’s still plenty of games left and some players will begin to return to action after being out injured. Devin Smith discussed this with me after the game: “Second half was rough, turned over the ball and missed a lot of shots and they took advantage of it. But this chapter of the year is over and we have to use the extra time we have to get back in line and play quality basketball day in and day out. Everybody here is professional, so I think we will be okay. Yea it’s a tough road, but I believe it won’t take everybody that much time to get together and it will allow everybody to get back to their normal rotation.” Alexander also chimed in on the balance of the season: “We will bounce back with a sense of urgency, everyone knows how important the israeli league is, we need to focus.”
I had the privilege to speak with Nick Calathes, one of the all-time great European based players and Euroleague winner with Panathinaikos in his first term with the team while also picking up the EuroCup title with Lokomotiv Kuban and being named the league’s MVP in 2013. He also featured for Billy Donovan’s Florida University basketball team while also dabbling in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, now that’s some resume. The American who also holds Greek citizenship and has played for the Greece National Team has been a top level professional for many years and is also a role model for many basketball players who care about the fundamentals of the game. Here’s a bit of what he told me about the current season, the game that was and Maccabi, a team Calathes has faced numerous times over the course of his career: “Definitely one of our goals this year is to get home court advantage, and we have won five in a row now. We are playing good basketball and we are on our way towards our goal for the year. We started playing defense and made shots, we played a lot better defense third quarter and took care of business. They (Maccabi) are some of the best fans in Europe with this crowd, and to see them knocked out and not a sell out like this, it’s sad but Maccabi always comes back strong, they do things to better themselves, and I wish them the best.”