Maccabi Tel Aviv came away with a tight 74-73 victory at UNICS Kazan as the Yellow & Blue moved back to .500 in Euroleague action at 4-4. Devin Smith starred for Maccabi with 16 points and 6 rebounds while Colton Iverson dropped 12 points and pulled down 6 boards in the win.
Rami Hadar’s team ran out to a 25-12 lead in the first quarter thanks to Smith’s sharp shooting good for 8 points as Victor Rudd and DJ Seely added 6 and 5 points respectively. Marko Banic scored 4 points in the frame for Kazan but it was Keith Langford who would cut into the Maccabi lead as time ran down drawing a late foul on Yogev Ohayon in the backcourt good for three free throws. 25-17 Maccabi after ten minutes. Smith added another 6 points and Langford put in 5 points of his own as the hosts cut into the Maccabi lead in the second quarter to end the half only behind by three, 41-38.
Maccabi scored 20 points in the third quarter thanks to fine play by center Colton Iverson as he added to his game total of 12 points, finishing the third frame up 61-54. But the last ten minutes put the Yellow & Blue fans on edge yet again as they fell behind 67-63 with Pavel Antipov and Langford leading the way. However, Sonny Weems who had been quiet all night in foul trouble, scored some clutch points before fouling out to put Maccabi back in front for good as Smith made sure that Langford wouldn’t add to his game high 22 points as number 6ms monster stick helped wrap up a 74-73 win.
1) Maccabi is back at .500 with a 4-4 record. Just a few days ago after the Yellow & Blue lost to Bnei Herzliya it was if the end was near. That coupled with the Barcelona defeat and a near miss loss at Ashdod put the coach, management and fans on edge as thoughts of 2-6 after 8 Euroleague games entered everyone’s minds. Fast forward to a cold Russian night and a very happy story was written by Rami Hadar’s team picking up their second Euroleague game in a row right before facing Israeli League rivals Hapoel Jerusalem on Sunday night at Yad Eliyahu. Great timing as Maccabi is firing on all cylinders and Jerusalem continues to struggle.
2) I like DJ Seely and so do his teammates. The 2 who became a 1 under Hadar chipped in with 11 points, dished out 6 assists and collected 4 rebounds (2 of which were offensive) was effective as usual for the Yellow & Blue. Last game, Yogev Ohayon starred as point guard and today was Seely’s turn to shine. Maccabi is going to need everyone’s abilities if it means a run deep into the Euroleague season. Seely isn’t your traditional point guard but his size is a big factor as to why Hadar continues to go with him at the 1 when necessary. The other plus is that Ohayon still managed to play 19 minutes to go along with Seely’s 37(!) showing that the coaching staff knows exactly how to move players around and make adjustments when they need to.
3) The short bench that Hadar has been using over the past couple of games has worked to perfection. Using a rotation of 8 guys giving them the bulk of the minutes is working as the players are beginning to get into a groove. You also have to remember that Andrew Goudelock has been out the last two games which on one hand is not great as he is a star and can easily contribute a ton of minutes and points, but on the other hand is allowing other players a chance to see what they can do in real game action and just not on the practice court.
Victor Rudd played 28 minutes last night but let all of the teammates and coaches down by walking away from a play thinking that he was going to get the ball from Yogev Ohayon. After not receiving a pass from the Israeli guard, Rudd just started walking back down the court as Maccabi continued in their offensive set. That’s a mega sized no-no. A wildcat strike is what ELAL pilots have been doing of late and it’s not what you expect a professional basketball player to do. (Of course one shouldn’t expect pilots to do the same). Rudd was subbed off and didn’t see the floor again as Rami Hadar admitted that he benched the small forward who contributed 8 points against Kazan. If Rudd was testing Hadar’s patience he should be warned that he is messing with the wrong person as rumors are already swirling that the Yellow & Blue will release him. There is no way that the inmates are going to be running Hadar’s asylum. No chance. No chance in hell.
They said it:
Rami Hadar: “I think we achieved here a very important win against a very good team. We struggled today on offense, we didn’t play so well, but I think we did a very good defensive job, especially at the end and made it difficult for Keith Langford to get hold of the ball. Out of that, I think the guys played hard and the spirit of Maccabi Tel Aviv prevailed at the end. ”
Guy Pnini: “We are very happy to win this game. It was really important for us. Kazan is a really good team; it’s a tough place to play. We came, played our defense and did our job. Unics is a really good team offensively and defensively and in the second half they got into their rhythm, their shooters did their job. In the end we made the big shots… Everybody knows Keith [Langford] is a great player. No one can stop him alone. It’s a team effort. We did a good job. He was tired in the end and that was our plan. ”
Devin Smith: “I think we did a really good job limiting what they do well. We tried to take the ball out of Keith [Langford]’s hands. I think we did a good job rebounding the ball and defensively and I think that carried us in the second half because we played so well in the first half. It’s just about effort. In the last two games, our effort has increased a lot. We’re battling. All these teams are great teams, so to come here and get a win is great. “