Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Baskonia on Thursday (21:15 Israel time) as the Yellow & Blue look to win their first Euroleague game on the road this season, however, any game in Vitoria is never a simple endeavor. Oded Katash’s squad is 4-1 after the first five rounds of action with all four wins coming at home in Israel with the lone defeat coming on a visit to Fenerbahce in Istanbul.
If you look at the schedule it’s clear that Maccabi had a an east start to the season with and the home games are always going to be a big plus for any team that wants to get off to a fast start, especially when it’s the Euroleague. The goal is to win early any which way you can as chemistry is being built between the players and staff. The Yellow & Blue will have a busy month of November with two away games in Belgrade and two home clashes against Barcelona and Olympiacos. It’s not an impossible month of games but it won’t be a walk in the park either.
Barca and Olympiacos are two of the favorites to punch their ticket to the Final Four and that will certainly be a test at home without a doubt and will threaten Maccabi’s undefeated record at Yad Eliyahu. While those two games are important they will also have one factor that usually doesn’t come into play on the road which is the fans.
The supporters in Tel Aviv are worth points any which way you slice it and those 2, 3, 5, 7 or 9 points that the pressure and noise that Maccabi fans can provide aren’t going to be there and Katash is well aware of that fact.
“After a few games at home, now it’s time to show that we can keep the same energy and intensity on the road without our crows. It will be definitely different without our fans.”
One player who will definitely feel like he will be back at home is guard Wade Baldwin. The Vanderbilt product played with Baskonia just last season so this will be a quick turnaround for the guard to head back to one of his former stomping grounds.
“It feels good to go back to Vitoria. I have history there, my son was born there. Buesa Arena is one of the toughest places to play in EuroLeague, it can get ugly fast if you are not careful. Baskonia is a tremendous shooting team and they play well at home. We need a win on the road and hopefully that will start in Spain.”
There’s no question that the game against Baskonia is a winnable one, but as Baldwin said, their home court is one of the most difficult places to play and it can get ugly fast. In fact, the ugly part has certainly happened to both teams in the past when they faced one another. Maccabi has won the last three meetings in Spain between the squads by a total of 52 points which should give them some confidence that winning at Baskonia is more than possible.
Maccabi will need to focus on defense especially on the perimeter and also controlling the rebounds which they have done a good job of leading the league on the offensive glass with 13.6 boards per game. However on the defensive side they sit in 14th place. The perimeter defense will need to be very alert as Baskonia leads the league in 3-point attempts with 156 and triples made with over 12 per game.
“It’s been very hard for guards to come in and have success against us,” Baldwin explained. “We have to stay focused on defense and rebounds like I’ve said all year and it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. It’s not matter where you are but can you stop the other team or not. If you’re able to stop the other team and figure out what they are doing then it’s easier to get out and run, have fun and make some plays.”
And that’s exactly what Maccabi wants to do whether they are at home or on the road.