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Maccabi Tel Aviv BC: Kill the Game

Courtesy Euroleague.net


The Rundown
Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Baskonia 85-84 thanks to terrific shooting by Sylven Landesberg (18 points) and Andrew Goudelock (21 points) while Gal Mekel had a well rounded game scoring 10 points, pulling down 9 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists.

Maccabi ran out to an 8-0 run to start the contest as Sylven Landesberg with 8 points going 2/4 from 3-point land, Andrew Goudelock with 7 points and Gal Mekel with 5 rebounds and 6 (!) assists led the way for a 22-18 Yellow & Blue first quarter lead. Former NBA players Shane Larkin and Rodrigue Beaubois countered with 5 points a piece for Baskonia. Quincy Miller with 6 points and Goudelock with 8 points helped give Maccabi a 7 point halftime lead, 46-39 as Andrea Bargnani dropped 11 points of his own in the second frame to keep the Spaniard’s in the game.

Courtesy Euroleague.net

Courtesy Euroleague.net


Mekel and Landesberg sent the Yellow & Blue off to a 9-0 run to begin the second half as Landesberg finished with 10 third quarter points for a game total of 18 to give Maccabi a 69-55 lead. The Yellow & Blue looked to be in full control as the game headed into the last quarter, but unfortunately yet again that would not be the case.

Baskonia came back with a vengeance thanks to ten 4th quarter points by an injured Shane Larkin, 7 points by Beaubois and 6 points from Johannes Voightmann. That, coupled with Maccabi going 0/8 from beyond the arc, gave the visitors a chance to win the game on the last possession. However, it was not to be as Baskonia couldn’t get a final shot off allowing the Yellow & Blue to pick up the important win.

3-Pointers
1) I loved the Starting Five that Ainars Bagatskis put out for Maccabi Tel Aviv, a true 1,2,3,4,5. Finally. Mekel, Goudelock, Landesberg, Miller & Iverson. Plus there were two Israelis in the mix. Finally. This was probably the coach’s dream since he arrived, to actually have a team that can play in all three competitions, the Euroleague, Israeli League and the State Cup instead of three different teams that he’s been dealing with up until now. In fact, Maccabi also looked like a team against Baskonia, well for at least 30 minutes. Good ball movement, intelligent play while keeping the turnovers at a minimum, what else could’ve Bagatskis have asked for. Well, I guess he could’ve asked for 40 minutes instead of 30 minutes of play from his team.

Courtesy Euroleague.net

Courtesy Euroleague.net


2) The return of Quincy Miller was a key component for Maccabi as number 30 scored 11 points and pulled down 5 rebounds in 18 minutes. With Miller back in the saddle, Bagatskis has yet another weapon at his disposal that can be a game changer on the court due to his ability to also handle the ball and shoot the three. Playing the 4 position, Miller is an instant impact player with intangibles that have been missing in the Yellow & Blue game plan from day one due to his offseason injury. If he’s really back and cured from all of his ailments, then, maybe, just maybe Maccabi has a chance to get to the next round of Euroleague action. Miller will be a key player in the next few weeks for the team and he’ll be relied upon to deliver the goods. Can he? Stay tuned.

3) Maccabi has a huge game Monday night and an even potentially bigger one on Thursday should they get by Ashdod in the State Cup semifinals. Bagatskis on one hand must be happy that Maccabi played well for 30 minutes against Baskonia. On the other hand he knows that consistency and character is not the Yellow & Blue’s strong point and still needs to find a solution to that issue. Miller may provide some solace for the Latvian as number 30 looks like he will be registered to play in the Cup and Israeli league games. That’s really good news and will strengthen the point made in number 1 above, that Maccabi can play as playing as one team. If that move happens which it likely will, Devin Smith will then be the only player on Maccabi that will just be playing in the Euroleague. The veteran is likely in his final season with the Yellow & Blue and his numbers have certainly trailed off over the last few months. He’s not as dominant both offensively and defensively as he once was, but perhaps can still be used in certain situations that call for a veteran presence.

Overtime
Maccabi still has to find a way to kill the game. This has not only been an issue for the basketball team but also for the football team as well. I remember Shota Arveladze, the then Maccabi FC head coach talking to the press about how they can’t kill the game and this is something that the basketball team needs to work on. It’s primarily mental, but physical nonetheless. This time the opposing team’s comeback “only” took place in the final quarter instead of in the third, so that is a start. However, if Maccabi has any dreams and thoughts of winning the Cup, Israeli league and somehow, someway get into the Euroleague quarterfinals, they must work on the mental side of the game and make sure that all of the players are on the same page.

They Said It:
Andrew Goudelock:
“We made it hard for ourselves tonight but we won and that’s all I’m worried about right now. we won but we are still building and this is a good step in the right direction. Everyone played really well and we could probably fix some things at the end to make it easier for ourselves, but it is, what it is. I’m very proud of everybody, they kept the energy really high and we stayed positive. That was the key for us.”

About Maccabi’s second half play:
“Coming out in the second half we were super focussed on not having the same lapse that we’ve had in the 3rd quarter where we normally get outscored by at least 10. But we had a bigger lead and we stayed with it. We still have to focus on that second half.”

Ainars Bagatskis, Head Coach Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
“For me, it was interesting to see how our players prepared for a game. As you know, a few days ago, we got a very painful loss against Jerusalem, but again, it was interesting to see how we looked like, if we had pride and knew how to fix our problems or not. I was happy how we started the game. Of course, maybe there were some surprises in the starting lineup, but what was most important was the energy with which we started the game. Our energy and movement, with or without the ball, that is our bonus, our plus. Generally, everything worked. Of course, there were some unacceptable actions on offense from which Baskonia immediately got some points. For me, it is one of the best transition teams, also rebounding-wise. They got 13 offensive rebounds and this are two of the things we talked about before the game: stop their transition offense and rebounds. Generally, we did a good job for 35 minutes and then, for some reason, we missed some shots, returned to defense and they found some open shots, plus two crazy – okay not crazy, but two really tough shots by Larkin gave them the chance to win the game. The basketball gods were with us at the end of the game. Maybe one of the reasons they were on our side is because of our fans, who gave us a lot of energy. It sounds not so good, but it is part of basketball. Baskonia is a good team, they know each other and how to play. If you relax for a short time, they take that immediately. General, we found good shots in the last four, five offenses, but missed them. Like I said, Larkin hit two difficult three-point shots that gave them a chance.”