In a flash: Maccabi rides pendulum as series shifts to Tel Aviv

Apr 28, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

It’s quite amazing how the pendulum swings so quickly from one side to the other. Even when it seems that it takes an eternity, it is really not.

After Maccabi Tel Aviv’s game one win over Monaco, expectations swung very, very quickly as the thoughts of booking a trip to Kaunas for the Final Four all came fast and furious. But after Monaco’s game two 86-74 victory over the yellow-and-blue the pendulum wickedly swung the other way in a flash. The series which was already being fantasised as a sweep for Oded Katash’s crew became a best of three tilt with the upcoming two games being played back in Israel.

Maccabi fans – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maccabi can certainly win the next two contests at Yad Eliyahu, a place where they went 15-2 in the regular season and also a court that saw them make a massive comeback against the same Monaco a number of months ago. But that of course was the regular season and this is the postseason, the playoffs where the stakes are markedly higher.

Every single possession during the regular season is crucial and intense, but that intensity and aggressiveness goes up a number of notches when the big prize is on the line. Maccabi may have have sent Sasa Obradovic’s squad to the mat in game one, but boy did they ever respond in game two.

They came back like a team on a mission, one that was not going to be bullied in their own arena as they had been in the first clash. Whether it was Yakuba Ouattara, Elie Okobo, Mike James and of course Jordan Loyd who dropped 33 points on Maccabi’s head they all played tight, relentless defense for an entire 40 minutes which was something that they were missing in game one.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

“They were aggressive and they came out very aggressive they started with an 11-0 run,” Wade Baldwin, Maccabi’s leading scorer began. “To start the game [in a big hole] is very tough, it’s the first punch but I thought we did a good job getting back into the game and competing. I’m real happy with our competitive edge. The toughness that we’re bringing we had to bring because Monaco is an extremely tough team that went to a game 5 last year against Olympiacos. You know this is a battle and it’s very hard to play these teams that are very evenly matched. We have to now protect home court like we did all year.”

Roman Sorkin agreed that the yellow-and-blue will need to give their best effort in order to take advantage of the home court that they gained with the split, “It’s a series and we have more games to go, now we’ll go home and try to finish the series there. We are very good at home and also away, but at home you see our record, our fans come with us everywhere and they will give us the push especially at home. But we need to play aggressive, focused and hungry and try to win the series. We are focusing first on the next game and when game 4 comes we’ll focus on that one. We try to win every game but we need to be focused on game 3 first and foremost.”

You may have a bad day scoring the basketball, but defense is something that can always be played at the height level with just effort both on and off of the ball. Monaco took the game to Macacbi and gave them a dose of their own medicine as to what they did in game one to the Principality’s team.

That was also the case with the yellow-and-blue fans where they were allowed to do as they pleased from end to end in game one. But just as the Monaco players adjusted on the court to counter Maccabi, the local supporters and especially their public address announcer also made the necessary adjustments to silence the Maccabi faithful.

Josh Brown on Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Euroleague

The Maccabi fans showing up in the Principality in big numbers was no surprise to Monaco’s lockdown defender John Brown, “We knew that they were going to come in and show out. I expected nothing less from them, the history of them. They’ll travel the ends of the earth for their team, so it wasn’t unexpected from them.

“That’s playoff mode. They had their fan base, that wonderful fan base and that had our fans a little shook from my perspective. But we look for these types of games, come to play and everything. I’m just looking forward to being there [In Tel Aviv]. I know it’s going to be wild.”

Whether it was matching the Maccabi drummers with drummers of their own or whether it was drowning out the fan cheers and chants with the PA announcer screaming at the top of his lungs and encouraging the local crowd to join in. Or whether it was the non-stop ear busting music and dancers, Monaco’s off court extra-curricular activities did what they needed to to nullify the home court advantage that the Maccabi fans created during game one.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

But that’s all the fun about it explained Baldwin, “I think were just bringing out the competitiveness of this series. These guys over there they’re battling, we’re battling as hard as we can and it’s just gonna happen. This is sports and these guys are passionate about their season and we’re extremely passionate about our season and its a fun series, this is fun basketball and this is the best basketball that we’re gonna play all year.”

“You know the level goes up it’s playoffs and every play is intense. Every play matters and Wade said it right, it’s fun to play in intense playoff games,” Sorkin said.

There was no way that Monaco was going to be beaten on the court and off of it as well. The entire organization from top to bottom everyone involved did their part to help Obradovic’s team to tie up the series.

On the floor, Monaco jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead as they sent a crystal clear message as to what their intentions in game two was going to be. Loyd who was non-existent on game one came flying out of the gate and showed why he is considered to be a superstar while their captain Yakuba Ouattara who did not play in the first game, knocked down the opening triples to set the tone just as a captain should.

Oded Katash argues with the ref

From there, Katash’s team was able to make a dent and come to within a single point, 42-41 at halftime, Maccabi was never really in the game. They had been out-hustled, outplayed and whatever they had wanted to try and do was met with aggression, intensity and a team that played for their lives knowing full well that if they did not win the game they would be in an 0-2 hole heading to arguably the best home court in the Euroleague.

That was a situation that Monaco did not want to be in under any circumstances.

“That was very important for us to make a big statement on toughness,” Monaco’s Yakuba Ouattara said. “That was the biggest adjustment we made from the first game. We have to be ready mentally. We go over there for war and be ready.”

The star of the show Jordan Loyd spoke about what he saw as being the keys to the win while also complimenting Ouattara for his phenomenal play after not having featured in the first game.

“We knew that game one wasn’t a reflection of how we play as a team, but first I want to say that our captain came out, Yakuba [Ouattara], gave us a great spark and we followed his lead. We’re confident in ourselves, we didn’t show that Tuesday, so we just wanted to come out in this game and be aggressive early on and just lead from that.”

They are still in quite some trouble because they may never see the Gaston Medecin Arena again this season in continental play as they will need to get at least a split of their own in a very hostile environment with 11,000 fans strong which is a much different situation than playing in a facility with under 5,000 seats.

While Maccabi mounted a huge comeback to down Monaco during the regular season contest at Yad Eliyahu, they can’t afford to put themselves into a pickle that could cost them dearly,

“We will show that game and analyze it,” the Monaco bench boss said. “We don’t know why we got into that situation and we saw how things started and then we couldn’t stop it. The game is 40 minutes long and this game won’t be the same because the regular season is the regular season and the preparation for these games are very detailed. There are rules as to how to behave in such an atmosphere and the communication between the players will need to be at the highest level. We have to stay together as a team and make sure that we are properly organized.”

Monaco Celebrates – Photo Credit: ©️Direction de la Communication / Stephane Danna

John Brown also explained what Monaco will need to do in order to come away with a win in Tel Aviv, “Focus, we have to be focused, blackout every noise, everything that they’re going to throw at us, because they’re going to throw at us, we have to focus, that’s all.”

As for Maccabi, Katash and his charges want to put game two in the rear view mirror as fast as possible, “That’s what we have to do. We can’t go backwards but forwards, what’s done is done and I’m happy with how we played. It’s not a great feeling to lose and that’s part of the game but now we have to channel the emotions into game three. That’s the goals and that’s what we want to do. It won’t be easy and we have a couple of days to rest up and I promise that there will be aggressive games in Tel Aviv.”

The question though that remains is if Wade Baldwin will be allowed to play in game three. Although there has been no official discussion just yet about his ejection in the fourth quarter but there is some concern that the Euroleague will come down on Baldwin for his reaction after being sent to the showers.

After the embarrassing and disgraceful brawl that took place between Real Madrid and Partizan Belgrade that resulted in ejections galore as well as some serious injuries especially one to Dante Exum, the executives of the continent’s best league may use that as the impetus to try and set the tone across the board. Should Maccabi lose Baldwin, they will no doubt be at a disadvantage despite being at home.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Baldwin discussed his actions in detail to ensure there would be no misunderstandings as to his intentions, “That’s a play that we have- ‘Flash’ but it’s ok it’s misinterpreted I understand the miscommunication I guess, but that’s our play it’s called ‘Flash’.”

His coach Oded Katash said that he’s didn’t see what occurred and would need to take a look later on when he reviews the game. But if Maccabi splits the pair of games in Tel Aviv that means there will be a decisive game 5 back in Monaco and after this past contest that’s the last thing that Katash, the club and its fans want to have happen.

Baldwin himself, who deserves oodles of credit for always being available and never shies away from the media after a game in the good and in the bad, gave a bit more context to the on court activities, “We always have something to prove every game and we always want to win the game. We wanted to go up 2-0 and we didn’t we went 1-1 so we have something to prove in Tel Aviv to finish out our series. We’ll figure out game 3, make the adjustments we need to make and we’ll figure it out.”

Maccabi can make all the adjustments they want as they desperately need to get other players going whose names are not Brown and Baldwin, but if the latter will be suspended, this series will most definitely turn in a flash.

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