Bonding: Maccabi falls at Panathinaikos 89-84

Panathinaikos ran out to a quick 6-0 lead as Keith Langford scored on a nifty pass, Nick Calathes dropped an easy as pie layup and James Gist slammed home gorgeous alleyoop. But thanks to an active Wilbekin who scored 8 points in the frame, Maccabi quickly found their rhythm and cut the deficit to just 2, 26-24. The Yellow & Blue continued their fine play and led throughout the majority of the second quarter until Calathes drained a 3-pointer just before halftime to give the host’s a 1 point lead, 46-45.

Maccabi took a 67-64 lead late into the 3rd quarter thanks to strong play by Tarik Black in the paint as he dropped 7 points in the frame. But Calathes showed why he’s the leader of PAO and increased his assist total to 14 after thirty minutes when he handed off a ball to Langford to pop a 3-pointer near the end of the quarter as the host’s took a 70-67 advantage into the final quarter. However, Matt Lojeski scored 8 4th quarter points including a couple of 3’s as Panathinaikos ran away with the 89-84 victory.

Matt Lojeski led the way for Panathinaikos with 20 points, Keith Langford dropped 13 points while Nick Calathes dished out 14 assists while adding 8 points in the win. Scottie Wilbekin scored 24 points and handed out 8 assists while Michael Roll had 15 points as Tarik Black added 14 points in the win.

1) Nick Calathes. Nick Calathes. Nick Calathes. It’s all Nick Calathes and he’s the engine that drives Panathinaikos any which way you slice it. Calathes set the tone early hitting a quick shot, grabbing a rebound and then sending James Gist on his way for a massive alley-oop dunkaroo. Calathes is quick as lighting and sees the floor better than anyone in the Euroleague today. It’s as if he has eyes in the back of his head and on the sides as well. Michael Roll spoke about his Panathinaikos counterpart, “We gave up to many easy points. Calathes is good at that. No actually he’s great at that. Just as soon as you stop looking at the ball, then BOOM, it’s over your head for an easy layup. He must have gotten 5-6 assists just like that. If we take a few of those away.“

2) Without Jeremy Pargo, Neven Spahija had only one point guard in Scottie Wilbekin at his disposal and he ended the night playing over 36 minutes. How was his performance you ask? Well, he began a bit shaky and Langford posted him up taking advantage of his size, but after the first few minutes Wilbekin did just fine scoring 24 points including five 3-pointers plus he chipped in with 8 assists. The former Darüşşafaka guard talked about the game that was, “We made a step forward. It’s hard with the lessons that we had and I think this was a big step for us after the preseason that we had. Obviously when we get Jeremy back that will help even more.”

3) Bonding was the name of the game for Maccabi in their first Euroleague game. After handily disposing Ashdod earlier in the week, this was really the Yellow & Blue’s first test of the year. Deandre Kane spoke about how the team has bonded since coming together with the new players, “We learnt a lot about ourselves today, our toughness and our character. I think our bond was amazing, we are group that likes to play together. We shared the ball and played together. Overall we can build off this loss. We had the game in the palm of our hands and we let it slip away. We have to learn from it to get better and move on to the next one.” Roll added to that as well, “I really like the fight from the team today and how we fought, dug in and bonded, we really played well in a hostile place.” Last but certainly not least Coach Spahija also commented about the team bonding together, “This is not close to the 100% of the possibilities and it’s something we will build during the season. What we saw is not more than 60-70% of Maccabi both offensively and defensively.” I think that Maccabi has the tools, but they are still a ways away from reaching the true potential. However, winning is the name of the game and they’ve got to get some W’s early and often.

Maccabi led in almost all of the statistical categories: shooting % 64/57, 3-pt shooting % 44/35, free throw % 71/63 and rebounds 32/28. Where didn’t they lead? Assists 22/18 and most importantly turnovers 18/11. Add into that mix the easy baskets and you come up with a recipe for a loss. Spahija spoke about that during his press conference, “They made so many cheap baskets today you can see the difference and turnovers in their favor. They have so much experience and can win by taking advantage of the turnovers.” Maccabi’s got to do a better job to make sure that they don’t get those cheap baskets in the future.

Quick Hits
1) Angelo Caloiaro played admirably scoring 11 points and pulling down 7 rebounds in 21 minutes of play. Johnny O’Bryant has a tougher time in his 19 minutes scoring only 6 points and grabbing 6 rebounds, but he committed a number of costly offensive fouls plus turned over the ball 4 times. There’s going to be some growing pains and an adjustment to the European game for Johnny.

2) Deshaun Thomas (9p), Keith Langford (13p) has Stephane Lasme (8p) all had quality games against their ex. PAO Coach Xavi Pascual spoke about their contribution, “They did a nice job and played well. They contributed to this victory.”

3) Yovel Zoosman received 16 minutes and scored 2 points. Coach Spahija pointed that out in the press conference, but perhaps it was just too many for the youngster in the first Euroleague game of the season? On one hand it’s great to see him play, but on the other that’s a lot of minutes in a tough arena.

4) Where was Jake Cohen? He certainly could have played solid minutes and made a contribution on the court. Unfortunately he wasn’t part of the rotation but he could have definitely helped spell Caloiaro, O’Bryant and even Zoosman when things weren’t working.

5) Tarik Black had some thundering dunks and he’ll be plenty of fun for the fans to watch this season. He didn’t look out of place at all in the European game playing 24 minutes, scoring 14 points, grabbing 6 rebounds and drawing 5 fouls while only committing one.

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