Busy European week ahead for Israeli teams with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Holon, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem all in action

Jan 30, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv prepares for tough Spanish double-week, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Holon look to get back to the win column, while Hapoel Jerusalem look to stay perfect in the Round of 16
After defeating a depleted Panathinaikos on Thursday night to stay in equal 6th spot in the standings (13-10), Maccabi Tel Aviv now prepares for a difficult double-week away in Spain against 1st-placed Real Madrid (20-3) on Tuesday (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST) followed by equal 8th-placed Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz on Thursday (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST).

In the first round of games against these teams, Maccabi had one of its worst losses of the season to Real (70-99) back in November, while defeated Baskonia in lost the previous encounter in December (89-81).

While Real is the team to catch this season, they are coming off a bad 100-77 loss to Fran Canaria in the Spanish league, while they may be missing key players Guerschon Yabusele, Mario Hezonja (16 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist against Maccabi in November), Walter Tavares (19 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists against Maccabi in November) and Sergio Llull on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it matters, it doesn’t make them worse,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said of Real’s loss in local action over the weekend. “It’s a challenging game, it’s different – Real is different – their size is different and we need to prepare differently. I think that the last few weeks we’ve shown that we’re able to come and prepare for games well. Some games we haven’t protected the lead, but when we’re focused on the gameplan we’re able to win.”

While James Webb III had a quiet game against Real in the previous clash (5 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes), he had one of his best games of the season against Baskonia (17 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks).

“They’re a great team, we have to come out and play our best,” Webb said of Real. “They’re having an incredible season this season. We have had our rough patch, but I think we’ve turned that corner right now and getting back to our game plan and solid play. I think we know what we have to do in order to finish games and close games off. The object is not to get down and to then play our game.”

“It’s going to be a tough week,” Cohen said. “We know that they’re a really good team and we have our work cut off for us. One thing this team has is a lot of confidence and belief in ourselves and I think if we do our job properly we’ll be in good shape.”

“They showed it in game one, but let’s hope that game two is a little bit different,” Cohen said of the challenge to turn it around against Real. “They’re a really good team with talent. We think we have that too, but we just need to play well. We’ve seen teams in Spain beat them – they’re not invincible – we just need to do what we know how to do.”

“Very important, it’s very important in the circumstances,” Katash said of the week ahead. “The crisis that we entered was that we had games in which we couldn’t protect the lead, but we played well for most minutes. So it’s less concerning and we look forward. It’s really an important and difficult week.”

“I think we’re always trying to improve,” Cohen said of the way forward. “The confidence is there. We always want to be moving forward and taking the next step, and the games this week are a good opportunity to do that.”

With the playoff teams set in Group A of the EuroCup, Hapoel Tel Aviv will be fighting to remain in second place in the group after suffering consecutive losses to other teams playoff-bound when they come up against another playoff team, Joventut Badalonia, in Spain on Tuesday (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST). Only one game separates the two teams going into the Round 17 clash, with Hapoel Tel Aviv at 11-5 while Badalona is at 10-6, so Hapoel Tel Aviv will be looking for a repeat of their 103-99 victory over the Catalonians back in November.

“There’s a high hurdle before us, the profile a quality team which is in good form,” Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Danny Franco said. “We’ve made the most of the little time that we’ve had to recover and prepare for the game. We are trying to get our injured players fit gradually for the crucial stages in the competition, we want everyone contributing and fit.”

“We’ll come and do our best, we want to get back on the winning track also in the EuroCup and we will do everything to do that,” Dez Wells said.

Meanwhile, in BCL action, Hapoel Holon will be looking to make up for their first Round of 16 game loss last week to UCAM Murcia when they take on AEK Betsson BC at home in Hungary (19:00 IST / 12:00 EST). Both teams are at 0-1 in Group L, so this is a crucial game for the Purples.

“The game against AEK is a key game for which we need to approach with maximum preparedness,” Holon coach Amit Sherf said. “We are coming up against a team which switched their coach last week [Ilias Zouros replacing Joan Plaza] and won in their local league on Saturday after four consecutive losses.

“AEK is one of the most talented teams in the competition, led by Brandon Knight who was a leading guard in the NBA, as well as Jordan McRae and Justin Tillman whom we know from our league and who are quality scorers. We must pressure the ball and cause them to play outside their comfort zone.”

Hapoel Jerusalem will be looking to stay perfect in the Round of 16 when they take on Pinar Karsiyaka in their clash at home in Belgrade at the Aleksander Nikolic Hall (21:00 IST / 14:00 EST)

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