Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Holon 86-82 in a close contest at the Holon Arena as Neven Spahija’s Team finally picked up a win after three previous tries against the State Cup Holders. Jake Cohen starred for the the Yellow & Blue and picked up MVP honors with 19 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes of play while Pierre Jackson dropped 17 points and dished our 8 assists as Alex Tyus ended the night with a double-double (16p/10r). Jordan Hamilton playing his second game for Dan Shamir’s squad ended the night as the game’s high scorer with 27 points while adding 8 rebounds as Tu Holloway chipped in 12 points in the loss.
After a free flowing first half of action in which Holon took a 50-48 lead into halftime, Maccabi clamped down on defense holding Holon to just 13 points as the Yellow & Blue took a slim 3-point, 66-63 lead into the final frame. Maccabi would hold on to their advantage thanks to a big Cohen 3-pointer and a pair of Tyus dunks in the 4th quarter that helped visitor’s to the win and first place.
1) With Maccabi ahead 83-80 with 17 seconds left in the game, Holon inbounded the ball and Jordan Hamilton was immediately fouled by Itay Segev putting him on the line for a pair of free throws. Coach Spahija could have opted not to foul and have his defense make the stop, however, so many times this season we’ve seen the Yellow & Blue not make that key defensive play and pay the price. In the NBA you’d almost never see a team commit a foul and give the opposition a chance to score, but in Europe it’s common place. On one hand I was surprised to see the coach decide to foul because throughout the season he’s rarely done it, but on the other, Maccabi needed a win and because of their precarious situation this option gave them their best chance to take home the victory. I asked the coach about his decision, “We decided to foul against Jerusalem but we didn’t foul. It’s happened to me three times (that he’s been burned) and every time I received a 3-pointer (from the opposition).” I believe that explanation said it all. Short, concise and to the point.
2) Welcome Back Pierre Jackson. #55 worked his magic in a shade over 31 minutes and looked like the Pierre Jackson of old, the one we saw at the beginning of the year. With Jeremy Pargo about to return to the Yellow & Blue for his third stint with the team, Jackson had the most to prove and there was definitely a fire lit under his behind. With 17 points and 8 assists, the point guard will be needed to play his best ball going forward in order to give Maccabi a chance to win the title and it will definitely be interesting to see how he and Pargo will coexist.
3) Another player who will be affected by Pargo’s arrival is Norris Cole and instead of grabbing the bull by the horns like Jackson did, Cole had yet another disappointing evening putting a goose egg up on the scoresheet in 11 minutes of play. Number 30 went 0/2 from the field, turned over the ball once, picked up a steal, committed and foul and drew one as well. Unfortunately that’s just not good enough if Maccabi has any designs on winning the league title. Spahija spoke about the work both Cole and DiBartolomeo put in at the point even though they are shooting guards and need to get their shots to score and how that will hopefully change soon once Pargo arrives on Sunday morning. How will they all co-exist? Stay tuned.
Everyone seems excited for Pargo’s arrival and the timing, although a bit late in my humble opinion (he should have already been at Maccabi in January to help the Yellow & Blue make it into the Euroleague quarterfinals) will make a difference in Maccabi’s season. Spahija was desperate for a ball handler and finally got one as it was clear that the team needed one ages ago. What does he offer? Alex Tyus commented about his former teammate, “Great player and I played with him a few years ago. He’s really exciting player who can really get it going for us and I think he’ll help us out a lot. Deandre Kane also chimed in, “He will help us out a lot and I think it will be good as he’s been here before.” Finally the MVP of the evening, Jake Cohen looked forward to the return of his former teammate, “I played with Jeremy three years ago at Maccabi and it’s great to be able to play with a friend again. He’s very talented guy, he’ll bring a lot of new positive energy and I think we can use that at this point in the season. We’re a little bit worn down and hopefully he’ll give us a shot of life.” And that’s the medicine that Maccabi needs most right now, a “shot of life”.