Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Anadolou Efes in Turkey 92-87 and were officially eliminated from Euroleague Playoff contention with four games left in the regular season. Victor Rudd led all scorers with a game high 23 points while Sylvan Landesberg dropped 20 points of his own in the loss. Jayson Granger with 22 points led the Efes attack while Thomas Heurtel finished with 18 points and big man Bryant Dunston picked up a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Yellow & Blue kept the game close through 20 minutes and went into halftime sporting a one point lead, 42-41. However, a poor 3rd quarter, outscored 26-15, something that has plagued Maccabi all season long did the visitors in on this night and were bounced from the Euroleague playoff picture.
1) Maccabi was officially eliminated from Euroleague playoff contention and a spot in the quarterfinal round. A disappointment? Certainly. One that can be corrected going into next season? Of course. After the Yellow & Blue splashed all kinds of money over last summer signing stars and the likes of Sonny Weems, Maik Zirbes and Andrew Goudelock, the only player who may be back in Goudelock as the other two are long gone. The key will be building the team intelligently over the next few months so that what happened this year, won’t happen again. Are there any guarantees? nope, but of ownership can hand the keys over to one person and put together a roster of players that will give their heart and soul for the Yellow & Blue, I believe everything will be A-OK.
2) Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis is definitely getting ready for the balance of the Israeli league season giving his Sabras 90 minutes of playing time and having one team not, two, three or four playing game in and game out. It was heartening to see the two Israeli point guards, Gal Mekel and Yogev Ohayon each dish out 8 assists combining for 16 of the teams 27(!) helpers. Add to that 20 points from Landesberg and you’ve hot some serious production. However, on the flip side, Itay Segev and Guy Pnini played almost a combined 22 minutes and scored no points. That is certainly not good enough and a serious look must be made into trying to bring in more solid Israelis who can be more effective on the offensive side of the ball. Brining back Ido Levy is a start, but there needs to be more solid players that can contribute coming into the Yellow & Blue.
3) Maccabi shot a abysmal 15/23 from the free throw line. Yes, the charity stripe. 16 turnovers with 12 coming in the second half to go with 14 offensive rebounds by Efes isn’t going to help the Yellow & Blue cause any way you slice it. These are numbers and facets of the Maccabi game that need to be worked on and on and on as we’ve seen these stats all year long. High turnovers, lousy foul shooting and offensive boards galore have unfortunately been the calling card for Tel Aviv since October.
What will be for the final two home Euroleague games at the Menora Mivtachim Arena? How many people will come to the games? And how into the games will the players be? Those are some interesting questions tat we will see the answers going forward next week against Zalgiris and then two weeks after that versus Panathinaikos. I believe that Bagatskis has got to use these games as test runs for the Israeli league and play the games exactly as he would say against Hapoel Jerusalem, Hapoel Holon or Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion with two Israelis on the court at all times. There is no reason for his not to do this. The other X factor now will be Diamon Sampson’s status. Will the team register him for Israeli League games or bid adieu. I’ve got to believe that they will do so.