Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Baskonia at home 74-68 to move to 2-0 in the young Euroleague season thanks to an MVP performance by Norris Cole who finished the evening off with 24 points, 5 assists and 6/6 from the free throw line.
The Yellow & Blue took a 3 point lead, 19-16 after the first frame thanks to Cole’s buzzer beater 3-pointer while the second quarter saw Maccabi extend their lead to 39-30 with Cole’s 12 points leading all scorers at the end of the half. Baskonia chipped away at the lead pulling to within 3-points, 56-53 after 30 minutes but the hosts were able to hang tough and pull out the 6-point win. Deshaun Thomas scored 17 points in the win while Alex Tyus put back 8 points and pulled down 8 rebounds for Maccabi. Rodrigue Beaubois dropped 19 of his 22 points in the second half and Ilimane Diop scored 12 points in the loss.
1) Maccabi Tel Aviv is in the house. Although the game was not a sellout, the fans were back and Yad Eliyahu was the place to be on a Thursday night. The arena looked spectacular and was decked out in Yellow & Blue while the team on the court didn’t disappoint taking home a hard earned Euroleague win. The key to the victory was teamwork and each player looking out for each other on an off of the court. A number of players expressed just that following the game in the lockerroom. When informed that he led the team in +/-, Alex Tyus said with a smile, “It’s good my teammates helped me when I was on the court and we all did a good job.” Deshaun Thomas also chimed in, “I came out focused and tried to get my teammates involved.” While Jake Cohen added, “I thought we responded when we needed to and that shows we’re a team with good character and a good attitude.” The fans also had their part in the victory as a Maccabi game was once again, “the place to see and to be seen.”
2) Maccabi still has work to do a ways to go to be a well oiled machine but they are off to a good start. At the pregame press conference head coach Neven Spahija spoke about the possibility of having issues due to the fact that the squad doesn’t have a huge amount of Euroleague experience and we saw exactly that when Baskonia pulled to within 2-3 points late in the game: “Some of our most talented players have experience but not experience in the Euroleague and at this level. What we are doing here is a bit different than in the US. We didn’t know how to execute when they switched. Defensively, Beaubois gave us some many problems because we don’t know how to read certain situations. It will take time but we will always fight.” Maccabi was able to withstand the pressure thanks to some experienced players like Alex Tyus: “Teams can go on runs and our team did a good job keeping our composure. Guys like Norris Cole and Pierre Jackson are used to playing 48 minute games and here the games are shorter at only 40 minutes. Every little mistake is big. We did a good job pulling out the win.”
3) Another key player was Deshaun Thomas who was huge down the stretch as Spahija relied on him late in the game when he looked like he was running on fumes: “That’s just the will to win. I came out with energy as I came off of the bench and I got a little tired. But that’s part of being an experienced guy, knocking down shots in the 4th quarter when you are tired. I was happy to lead by example having been in these situations before and most importantly, we got the W.” Spahija also praised the veteran, “He was very good today. We had a high low situation with Alex Tyus and he made a 3-point shot. He gave up some defensive rebounds which he could do a bit better but generally I liked how he played.”
Maccabi was able to get by Bamberg and Baskonia so far running out to a 2-0 record for the first time since 2012, but Olympiacos will be a totally different story on Tuesday night at home. Spahija and company will be tested to the max as the Greek club comes for a visit. The following day Maccabi travels to Belgrade for a date with Red Star which is always a challenge especially in Serbia where Maccabi will be looking to avenge a 83-58 drubbing. Of course the players on both teams have drastically changed, but nonetheless as a franchise, the Yellow & Blue will want to take home a win. Of course the coach wanted to hear nothing about next week as Maccabi visits Hapoel Gilboa/Galil on Saturday night first and that’s where the focus must lie.
One last thing
Here’s an exclusive Norris Cole Interview following the game. But before you watch make sure to get one of his brand spanking new T-shirts in a variety of colors by heading to his website Coleblooded30.com. These are super duper cool!