Maccabi Tel Aviv fell 74-58 to Barcelona in Spain as the Yellow & Blue’s Euroleague record dropped to 1-4. Victor Claver scored 14 points and pulled down 7 rebounds, Kyle Kuric dropped 13 points and Ante Tomic added 12 points and 8 boards while Angelo Caloiaro led Maccabi with 11 points and Johnny O’Bryant added 10 points in the defeat.
Maccabi fell behind early to Barcelona and after ten minutes the host’s were up 18-12 as Jake Cohen picked up 3 fouls in just 10 seconds of play. The Yellow & Blue were able to pull to within one point 34-33 at the half as Johnny O’Bryant led the way with 10 points while Alex Tyus chipped in with 7 points and 7 rebounds.
However, Barcelona ran wild all over Maccabi in the 3rd quarter outscoring Neven Spahija’s squad 25-7 to take a 59-40 lead thanks to Victor Claver, Kyle Kuric and Ante Tomic. The final frame was garbage time supreme with the Yellow & Blue falling 72-55 dropping their Euroleague record to 1-4 with a visit from Real Madrid on tap next Thursday in Tel Aviv.
1) 58 points. 58 points. 58 points. That’s all Macabi could muster over 40 minutes and that’s not going to win any game. Barcelona played a tremendous third quarter clamped down on Neven Spahija’s squad, outscored them 25-7 in the frame and that was that. Claver and Tomic spoke about defense being the key to the game and key it was. Without a healthy Scottie Wilbekin running the show and with center Tarik Black being ruled out just two hours before tip off was the beginning of the end for Maccabi.
2) Wilbekin has been suffering from a broken finger and it was crystal clear that it affected his game against Barcelona taking only 6(!) shots all game! Yikes! Without Wilbekin and Jeremy Pargo who is already on the shelf, Maccabi had no chance once the contest headed into the second half. Add to that a total of 8 shots for Michael Roll and 7 from Deandre Kane and you’re just not going to win the game. There was no distributor and no opportunity for them to get shots off, let alone good ones. Add to that the injury to Black which occurred when he slipped on a sticker on the Yad Eliyahu floor during the Derby and Ante Tomic was able to chew up the inside.
3) “There was a point where we just couldn’t score and I think we need to do better job trying to get easier baskets for each other,” said Alex Tyus. “The second half we just went flat and overall we just have to do a better job coming out strong. It was a bad third quarter and we fell apart as a team. We got to be better, we got to be a lot better,” Jonny O’Bryant was quoted follwing the game. Tyus spoke about the need for finding easier buckets and O’Bryant the second half, specifically the third quarter, a disastrous one that dropped Maccabi’s Euroleague record to 1-4. It’s as if the Yellow & Blue had nothing to offer, no creativity, no answers, no nothing. And Maccabi Tel Aviv can’t look like that. Bottom line. The players looked lost. No one knew how to create a basket. No one took responsibility on the court as the hole just got bigger and bigger and bigger. Who’s responsible, the players or the coach?
And speaking of the coach, Neven Spahija said the following after the game keeping with the theme of the evening, ”I would like to congratulate Barcelona for the win. I think that tonight, the third quarter decided the game. It is unacceptable to allow 25 points and score just 7 [in the third quarter]. It was the key for the game tonight. I think that the first half was good and hoped we could keep the same level for the whole game, but, unfortunately, we couldn’t. We had terrible defense and offense in the third quarter, and they played outstanding at both ends of the court. Wilbekin only had one practice with the team before this game. His thumb still bothers him and it is his shooting hand. It is very difficult to play like this. Also, our starting point guard Pargo is out, and he could have released that pressure from him, also Tarik Black didn’t play tonight… It is too much for us. We don’t need excuses, this is the EuroLeague and you have to play better to try to win. For us, it is a problem if these players are injured. For me, Barcelona is always the same; the crowd is good and the team is good. Sometimes, results go up and down, but I think Barcelona is always at the same level, the crowd and the team.”
Read between the lines. The coach needs players and players that he can trust, fast. I’ve said it from day one of the season, you can’t win the league at the start of a campaign but you certainly lose it. And lose it is exactly what Maccabi is doing. That’s not to say Maccabi can’t come back from a 1-4 start but once you start losing the snowball effect takes hold and with each loss the pressure increases and the stress as well, plus the players get aggravated and antsy. And you can see that from some of the quotes. Oh boy.