Maccabi Tel Aviv takes on Red Star Belgrade and their former coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos on Thursday (21:05) at Pionir Arena as the yellow-and-blue will look to win their third Euroleague game in a row following a 89-81 victory over Baskonia. Oded Katash’s squad continues to climb the standings thanks to their 9-6 record while Crvena Zvezda will be coming into the game after a loss to Real Madrid and with a record of 5-10 which places them near the bottom of the standings.
One of the keys to Maccabi’s win at their empty home away from home arena in Belgrade is no doubt the emergence of some of the players who are coming off of the bench and are part of the so-called second unit. With Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin struggling, it was the likes of James Webb, Roman Sorkin and Tamir Blatt who came to the forefront to make their mark and a difference that could be seen without a doubt as the reason why the yellow-and-blue took the win.
Over the past two seasons it’s clear to see that the dynamic duo of Brown and Baldwin have been the engine that has made Maccabi run and run very well for Katash. When they go cold, it’s been hit or miss in many cases with other players not necessarily being able to provide the play that is needed to win in the Euroleague. But that seems to be an issue that can hopefully be put by the wayside.
Brown who went an abysmal 1/14 from the field for only 2 points and although he dished out 8 assists, his efficiency rating was -7 while Baldwin went 3/10 and scored 10 points with 7 helpers along the way. While Josh Nebo (12p/11r) and Bonzie Colson (12p) the numbers that B&B provided are not going to cut it on a normal night. But have no fear that was where the trio of Webb, Sorkin and Blatt showed up big time with a massive assist in more ways than one to help Maccabi take the victory.
Webb, who had a rough start to the season has begin to carve out his role very nicely as he checked in with 17 points and 8 rebounds while Sorkin went for 14 points and 7 boards to make up for some of those lost points. Add Blatt’s 8 points and 4 assists and Maccabi now has some serious play coming off of the pine as the yellow-and-blue don’t necessarily need to put all of their Euroleague eggs in the Brown and Baldwin basket.
They may be the leaders of the pack but that doesn’t mean the pack can’t contribute too.
“Brown and Wade didn’t shoot well,” Katash said. “But offensively we found our way to hit our shots but we did lose a bit of focus. The game plan was working pretty much and that is what I told the guys. Brown and Baldwin are our leading guys but we are basketball team and we have others like Roman Sorkin, Tamir Blatt and James Webb. We played cool, calm and collected and we were able to find things for our game that the other teams was giving us. We didn’t have a great offensive game without Brown and Baldwin but we did what we needed to in order to win.”
Sorkin knows full well that if Maccabi has some issue with the big guns so to speak that others can step up in their place and show their wares, “We are a good team and we have very talented players, those who didn’t play and those who did were able to do a good job. Brown and Baldwin are our leaders and if they aren’t going to have one of their best games then someone else will step up. They are out leaders and will be there for the other games. Sometimes the stats lie as they did plenty of other things really well, but ultimately the most important thing is that we won.”
Maccabi corralled 50 rebounds with 16 of them coming on the offensive boards which was a huge numbers thanks to the likes of Sorkin, Webb and Nebo.
“That is our role and control the rebound and being a physical presence, just have to keep it up,” expressed Nebo.
Just as rebounds were key against Baskonia that will be case against Red Star Webb explained, “Defensively we have to stick to our tactics, they are good on the offensive rebounds and in transition so we will have to limit that and play our game. Josh [Nebo}] did a great job with 11 rebounds and we did our job. Every day we have to go out and do our job and Thursday is no different.
Maccabi will no doubt have to be very conscious of who takes to the floor with coach Sfairopoulos on the sidelines, however, there are some things that both Red Star and Baskonia excel at Katash commented, “There is not much time to rest up and prepare. But there are some similarities between the teams which also concerns the offensive rebounds. We will have to be focused. We didn’t have a great offensive game without Brown and Baldwin but we did what we needed to in order to win. To play against Red Star who will be on the road in Belgrade is not something that we were expecting but since October 7th, nothing is a surprise at this point.”