Game of Firsts: Maccabi picks up maiden road win – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly from Euroleague Round 13

Dec 14, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv finally got their first away win for the season on Tuesday night in their 77-71 win over Milan in Italy. Lorenzo Brown (20 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists), Roman Sorkin (14 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist) and Jarrell Martin (13 points and 3 rebounds) led the scoring for the visitors, while Billy Baron (18 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (14 points, 1 rebound and 4 assists) and Nicolo Melli (12 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists) led the way for the hosts.

Here are a few of my reflections from the round 13 clash.

Maccabi celebrates – Elad Goldstein, Maccabi Tel Aviv

The Good: The bench
The obvious “Good” from tonight’s game is that after losing the first five away games of the season, Maccabi won outside of Israel. After the game, Brown said that the win “came down to our team collectiveness,” and Brown’s game MVP performance was supported strongly by Maccabi’s bench. Together, the bench combined for 47 points in 103 minutes and 13 seconds of play. Sorkin’s and Martin’s solid games were complemented by the contributions of Jalen Adams (2 points, 4 rebounds 4 steals and 4 assists), John DiBartolomeo (8 points and 1 steal) and Bonzie Colson (10 points, 7 rebounds).

Not only did their points help, but both the rebounding and defensive efforts were critical to the win. Statistics-wise, Maccabi beat Milan on the boards 38-25, with 20 of those rebounds coming from the bench.

Odes Katash – Elad Goldstein, Maccabi Tel Aviv

“It was a great effort – great defense in the second half,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said after the game. “I think the number that we got the stat, the most important one is that we beat them by 13 in the rebounding. We showed some heart. We were ready for the game, especially after we adapted after halftime.”

Sometimes it’s hard to really articulate how good a team plays defensively outside of the stats, but one moment that really stuck out was after a Brown miss with 7:42 to go in the final frame and Maccabi up 62-61. Johannes Voigtmann (2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) rebounded the ball for Milan, passed it to Naz Mitrou-Long (7 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal) and the hosts were on for the fast break. DiBartolomeo, using his experience and smarts, fouled Mitrou-Long to prevent the fast break and an easy bucket for the home side. After the inbound, Milan worked the ball into the paint. With Brandon Davies (5 points and 2 rebounds) closing in on the basket, he suddenly had five Maccabi players – Brown, DiBartolomeo, Colson, Jake Cohen (2 points and 2 rebounds) and Sorkin – collapsing on him, causing him to turn the ball over. This characterized the defensive pressure that Maccabi brought in the second half.

Lorenzo Brown – Elad Goldstein, Maccabi Tel Aviv

“Both of them [Sorkin and Brown], I think they’re great for us from the beginning of the season,” Katash responded to a question about the influence Sorkin and Brown have had on the court recently. “I’m very happy for Roman, but not only. We had some extra from John D and from Jake – and almost everyone who came off the bench came with the right attitude. I’m very happy for Roman and obviously Lorenzo with us missing Wade.”

Similarly, Katash gave credit to Colson: “He is an important key for us, a really important player. Obviously, he doesn’t have the experience in the EuroLeague, but he will get there. He is for that level. Not only him – Jarrel Martin, Jalen Adams. Not that we’re building a team from zero, but also some players don’t have that experience. But with time, they’re tough, intensity and aggressiveness. I’m not worried about first half or second half. The second half of play, better play offensively, which really allows Bonzie to get that space he needs for his game.”

Martin, who shot 3/4 from downtown and is starting to come into his own in Europe after winning the NBL championship with the Sydney Kings in Australia last season, also reflected on the importance of the win: “It was real big for us. We needed a break and get us one on the road. For us to get the victory, it meant a lot for us. As you can see the excitement after we won – it was tremendous for us.”

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Sorkin also reflected on his game and the team’s win: “The whole game we were there, in the 3rd quarter we lifted a little more in the important minutes, we lifted our defense, attack, we did the simple things and I think that this is what brought us there – defense, rebound and those things.”

The Bad: The starting five
While the bench was huge for Maccabi, on the flipside, the starting five (other than Brown) did not have a great night. While Brown did have a best on court performance in his 34 minutes and 51 seconds on the court, his fellow starters – Darrun Hilliard (0 points and 1 rebound), Cohen, Austin Hollins (0 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 1 assist) Josh Nebo (8 points and 4 rebounds) – did not inspire, with their total of 10 points, 8 rebounds and 1 assist in an aggregate of 61 minutes and 56 seconds of play.

Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Euroleague

This line-up is just one of the options that Katash is experimenting with following the recent injuries to Alex Poythress (who is now recovering from hand surgery and will miss around 4 months) and Wade Baldwin IV (whose hamstring injury will keep him out until the new year). It’s unclear what the starting line-up will look like going forward, however given the strong performances of the players coming off the bench, it will surely look different next game; other than Brown, no one’s spot is guaranteed.

The Ugly: First half defense
Does this sound familiar? The defensive effort in the 20 minutes was not up to par, which was reflected by Maccabi going into the halftime break down 32-40 against a team that had averaged 68.5 points coming into the game (an average increased by a number of their games going to overtime).

When ask at immediately after the end of the first half what Maccabi needs to do to turn it around in the second half, his response was simply, “We’ve got to be better defensively.” The brevity of his response indicated how frustrated he was after the first half performance.

“We have to be focused on being more aggressive on defense,” Katash said coming into the second half. Whatever Katash said at halftime worked, and Maccabi made the adjustments that they needed to in order to come away with the W.

Lorenzo Brown – Elad Goldstein, Maccabi Tel Aviv

Up Next: A cross-country trip
Maccabi will stay in Italy and travel to Bologna for the second game of the double week on Friday night. Bologna – currently sitting 16th on the table with 4 wins and 8 losses – play their round 13 clash at home against ALBA Berlin tonight.

Brown will come up against his Spanish team coach, Sergio Scariolo, who is in his second season with the Italian club. “I’m excited – I’m sure he’s excited as well,” Brown said of facing Scariolo. “I haven’t seen him since [Spain’s EuroBasket championship over the summer], so I’m just looking forward to what he has planned – I’m ready for the challenge.”

Reflecting on the game and: “I think it [the win against Milan] woke us up, the hunger will help us win away, we’re able to do this and we need to continue to the game on Friday. We will come prepared – we will do our recovery and we will be prepared.”

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