High Energy: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Milan 92-82 in an entertaining and high energy game. Diamon Simpson walked away with the MVP award, scoring 11 points, pulling down 8 rebounds while blocking 3 shots in his Yellow & Blue debut. Victor Rudd dropped 17 points, Colton Iverson added 16 points and 9 boards, as DJ Seely scored 15 points and dished out 7 assists as well for a well rounded performance. Rakim Sanders scored 19 points in the loss for visiting Milan.

The Rundown
Colton Iverson and Victor Rudd set the tone for Maccabi as they combined for 15 of the team’s 26 first quarter points as the big man was active on the boards as well grabbing 6 rebounds. Gal Mekel may not have scored a point in the first frame but he handed out 4 assists while DJ Seely added 3 helpers of his own for the Yellow & Blue as they ran out to a 26-20 lead. The second quarter saw Maccabi clamp down on defense as they outscored Milan 25-15 in the quarter to increase their halftime advantage to 51-35 as Rakim Sanders with 11 points and Awudu Abass added 10 for Milan.

The hosts took a 23 point lead very early on in the third quarter but the visitors chipped away to cut the deficit to only 6 points later on in the frame thanks to Sanders and Milan Macvan while Seely paced Maccabi with 7 points as they maintained a 9 point advantage, 70-61. Diamon Simpson showed why he earned the MVP honors over the course of the last ten minutes as the newest recruit scored 7 points and chipped in with 4 fourth quarter rebounds to help Maccabi to the 92-82 win.


1)Maccabi came out and played a high energy game throughout the full 40 minutes. Sure there was a bit of a hiccup midway through the 3rd quarter, but all in all the Yellow & Blue played perhaps their most entertaining contest of the Euroleague season. Yes, Milan sits at the bottom of the Euroleague, but a win is a win and right now that’s what is important. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Diamon Simpson played superbly in his debut and as he mentioned to us following the game he may have been winded at times and needed to be subbed off, he still was extremely effective and showed why he was successful in Israel the last time he played in the country. One thing that will be key is that Simpson MUST be registered to also play in in the Israeli league. This is a necessity. Hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later (perhaps even the Sunday night?) because I think we all want to see more of Maccabi’s new number 5!

2) 25 assists. Yes, 25 helpers were dished out by Maccabi players. That is a number we haven’t seen in Europe this season. Everything ran so well offensively against Milan it’s too bad they can’t play them 30 times! Again, the Italians were weak, but it’s obvious that Bagatskis deserves a tremendous amount of credit for making sure his players stuck to the game plan. The ball was in continuous motion and that helped make things a lot easier. There’s a ton of basketball left this year especially in the domestic league, so there’s plenty for the players and coaching staff to keep working on.

3) The inside game was also a key component to Maccabi’s win with not only Colton Iverson and Diamon Simpson but also with Joe Alexander who just returned to action along with Itay Segev things are looking up down low. Add to that fine play by Gal Mekel and Yogev Ohayon along with DJ Seely, Maccabi’s offense is now potent. Combine that with hustle, effort and hard work, the inside game may open up the outside game and make the Yellow & Blue a dangerous team from any spot on the floor. The next few weeks will be very interesting, that’s for sure.

Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis was shocked as to how short his press conference was with very few questions. He asked what the reason was and one of the journalists said that when you win there are fewer questions. That gave the Latvian a good chuckle. I’m sure he would have loved to win more games and have to answer fewer questions, though I’m certain he’d talk as long as anyone would want if the team could keep up the quality play and pick up more wins.

They Said It

Ainars Bagatskis
“In preparing this game we said we did not want to rush anything. If we don’t have really good situation on offense, then we have to play longer positional offense, use it to find good shots and quickly get back on defense because Milan is really experienced and knows how to use situations of what opponents do. When we played like that, when we did not rush things, took extra time to find situation outside and inside in the paint, generally everything was okay. But when we started rushing, when we started hunting for points and playing too fast, Milan immediately used it in the third quarter. They were really close to getting all the way back into the game. We fixed the situation, kept control of the game, and we won. Diamon Simpson and Joe Alexander gave us extra rebounds and extra energy. We missed that for six months. They did a good job.”

Colton Iverson
“We came out focused. We put our energy in the right places and we came out with a victory. We had some guys step up, Simpson came out and played great for his first game. It is huge any time you get a presence in the lane. I thought Simpson played huge defense along with his offense in the lane. And honestly, that was the X-factor for the win tonight.”

Diamon Simpson
“It feels good to win. Personally I was tired a couple of times and asked the coach to sub me, but then got my wind back. I was happy I could help in my first game and bring some energy.”

Gal Mekel
“Diamon is the type of player I love playing with. He gave us a lot of energy. We had some days off, so we felt fresh and that helped.”

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