Maccabi Tel Aviv begins a critical three game stretch on the road as they visit both Italian teams in a Milano on Tuesday and Bologna on Thursday in a Euroleague double week which will be followed up with a trip to Berlin next Thursday.
The Yellow & Blue will be without two main players in Wade Baldwin who will be out for a month and Alex Poythress who looks to be done for the continental campaign. Embattled head coach Oded Katash will need to find a way to pass the upcoming test against teams that are below .500 with Ettore Messina’s squad struggling mightily this season.
After a disturbing overtime loss to Bnei Herzliya in Israeli league action, all eyes will be on the bench boss as he needs to work in some of the players who have yet to make an impact in Euroleague play while also finding a way to bump up his team’s 6-6 record.
Despite the club’s inconsistent play, as well as his upcoming opponents, Katash doesn’t feel any extra pressure, “There’s no extra special pressure and these will be tough games especially as to the state of both Italian teams who don’t have the records that they would have wanted. Milan have been on a losing streak and they’re at home so they will want to end that. It’s a challenging week.”
Austin Hollins who has only played in the Euroleague this season doesn’t see any one team having an advantage heading into this game with Milan’s poor play of late, “I don’t think either team has more or less pressure. Both teams have good players and both teams have had some tough stretches in the season. Both teams want to win and it’s going to be a fight, play smart and play together.”
Maccabi big man Josh Nebo feels that the contest itself may be decided by the small details as they look to win their first road game of the campaign, “We have to play very close attention to detail as we will be on the road and we don’t have our home crowd. We have to be very focussed on the small details, players tendencies and their strengths and weaknesses.”
Without guard Wade Baldwin and forward Alex Poythress, the Yellow & Blue will need to compensate using some of the other players who haven’t featured much. Whether it will be Jake Cohen who played as many minutes last week against Valencia as he had the entire season, Austin Hollins who has played off and on all season long or Jalen Adams who has shown what he can do in the Israeli league but has yet to make an impact in Euroleague play as he gets used to a new league for him, players will have to step up.
Hollins has proven that when he comes in he can be a game changer whether it’s making a steal on defense or consistently knocking down a corner 3-pointer despite not getting the chance to show his wares domestically which in fact he says doesn’t bother him.
“It’s all about the approach and I just want to win, if that’s the best way to win, I’m all for it. I’m for the team and I know that when I go on the court I can contribute. My focus is trying to do something for the team and it doesn’t matter how many minutes it is. I’m going to try and make an impact every time I step in the floor.”
Oded Katash will most probably look to Adams to pick up some of Baldwin’s minutes over the next couple of weeks, “I believe that slowly but surely he is getting the hang of the Euroleague and what needs to be done on defense. He has a lot of abilities on offense and it’s a matter of confidence and to make the proper adjustments. He is always improving and has the desire to do so. As a player who came in the middle of the season and didn’t spend preseason with us plus he’s never played in the Euroleague.”
The bottom line is, Maccabi will need to “Just Do It” explained Hollins, “We are going to have to fight and Milano’s a good team. It’s not going to be an easy game even though they’ve lost games recently. We have to stick to the game plan and it’s going to be a fight. We would love to have those players but injuries are part of the game guys will have to step up and we are going to have to bring it.”