Confidence Shot: Maccabi falls to Malaga 83-69

Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Unicaja Malaga 83-69 in Spain as their record fell to 12-11 after 23 gamedays and will face CSKA Moscow next week at Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv. After a fairly even half with the host’s taking a slim 1-point 42-41 lead after 20 minutes, Malaga came out strong as went on a 12-0 win midway through the 3rd quarter turning around a 45-42 deficit to a 54-45 lead and never looked back to capture the 14 point victory. Nemanja Nedovic scored 15 points, Ray McCallum dropped 14 going 7/9 from the field while James Augustine added 12 points in the win. DeAndre Kane led the Yellow & Blue with 15 points and Deshaun Thomas scored 14 points in the defeat.

1) This game was a must win and Maccabi just didn’t. In fact the wheels fell off in more ways than one in the second half as anything that could go wrong, did. Alex Tyus left early with an injury, Pierre Jackson was tossed after a second technical, Norris Cole played only 14 minutes and scored a measly 2 points; in fact the dynamic duo of Cole & Jackson went 1/15(!) from the field, turned over the ball 9 times and that’s not how you’re going to win a tough away game. No way, no how. Maccabi kept it close after two quarters but imploded in the 3rd quarter as coach Neven Spahija couldn’t find any answers to stop the bleeding. It looks like the loss to Hapoel Holon last week did a lot more damage than everyone wants us to believe as the confidence of the players looked shot, more than shot.

2) Ray McCallum scored at will and ran wild dropping 14 points in 17 minutes showing us all that he certainly has adjusted and adjusted well to the European game. The point guard put in a quality display as Maccabi couldn’t find a way to stop him just as they haven’t been able to do against other top guards this season not domestically and in Euroleague play. “We knew it was a big game for us tonight, so we had to come out here and compete. We got a big win at their place. Everybody said we stole that win on the road, but we knew that this was a game that we needed to win. We felt like, with our home-court advantage, we had to come out and play hard tonight and that is what we did – and we got the win.”

3) The loss complicates matters for Maccabi if they want to finish in a top 8 position and play in the quarterfinals. With CSKA, a rejuvenated EFES, Khimki, Fenerbahce, Panathinaikos, Baskonia and Valencia on tap, Maccabi will need a minimum of 3 more wins and 4 to be certain to head to the playoffs. That’s a tough, tough task with the schedule that they have ahead of them. I can maybe give them 3 wins, EFES, Khimki and Valencia, but CSKA, Fener, Pana and Baskonia is a tough menu. Not many teams would be able to make it through this soup and I’m not sure Maccabi is strong enough both on and off of the court.

“We played a very strange game, especially in the third and last quarters. We made many mistakes and it was difficult to understand my players’ focus, but this is life,” said Spahija following the game. Strange indeed as Maccabi should have known a bit better how to focus and take home the win, but their mental toughness just wasn’t there and that’s a concern a real concern as the Yellow & Blue will need it if they have any designs of making it into the playoffs.

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