Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Baskonia to their home away form home in Belgrade on Tuesday (21:05) as they look to string together a winning streak after defeating Anadolu EFES last week in Serbia. The yellow-and-blue enter the game with a record of 8-6 in Euroleague play as they begin a double week which will see them also host Red Star Belgrade on Thursday at Pionir Arena.
One of the aspects that head coach Oded Katash has been preaching is the team’s defense which has been lacking to say the least over the course of the campaign. Maccabi has scored plenty of points but they are also giving up a ton as well which has cost them in some games which they could have won. Bologna, Barcelona and Olympiacos were all missed opportunities and games that could have been in the win column but poor defense allowed the opposition to take the victory.
While Maccabi sits at a very respectable two games over .500 due to the situation that they are in, they could be even better should they pay more attention on the defensive end of the floor and use that aspect of play to spur on their offense which is what we saw in the EFES matchup. Tight D along with a tiring Turkish team who were not playing with a full squad to say the least, helped Maccabi to the win and that should be the blueprint going forward.
As Lorenzo Brown said following the game, “It was a lot of grit defensive stops and we focussed our attention on Shane Larkin and sent two guys at him. Plus, we scored on offense to get the win.”
It is clear that there was a game plan and that the players followed to a “T” especially down the stretch causing issues to arguably the most dangerous player in the continent over the past few years.
Colson also mentioned how key the team’s defense was over the final 20 minutes of the EFES game to salt away the victory after having been in a 48-45 hole at halftime, “Second half we defended better and we got it going on offense, it was a good win for us.”
Katash is well known for his potent offense and how he can create for his players on the floor just as he did for himself as a player with his natural abilities and talent while defense is something that is a part of the game that needs to be worked on. But ultimately the more he manages at the highest levels of the game, the more he can adapt and see what adjustments need to be made in order to come out on top.
“Big win for us [against EFES],” Katash began after last game. “I think in the end it was our effort in the second half, we fought hard and adapted. We changed some things on defense and I liked how the team responded. It’s all about defense.”
The message of “It’s all about defense” is so, so true and that is a lesson that his players need to hear over and over and over again. The best offense many times is you defense and this is what the bench boss needs to continue to preach.
“We had two or three days to prepare for this game [against Baskonia],” Katash continued. “We had the chance to get in some good practice time which has been rare, but of course nothing guarantees the result. We watched video and we understand that we need to play better, especially defensively and we have to bring the energy from within us due to the fact that there is no crowd for our home games.”
“Baskonia are a very dangerous offensive team and they play at a very high pace. We must run fast and move quickly to defend. They are a team that attacks the offensive boards and they are a very good shooting team, so we must be focused for the entire 40 minutes, especially defensively.”
Since the return of head coach Dusko Ivanovic for what seems to be the 100th time to the club, Baskonia has once again found their rhythm as the bench boss has gone 7-2 since taking over back on November 3rd with the team sporting an overall record of 8-6, the same as Maccabi.
Katash is very well aware of how Ivanovic can be a massive factor in their upswing while understanding that his team will need to play the same way on Marcus Howard as they did to stop Shane Larkin.
“The coaching change has given them the opportunity for a new start which they have done as they are playing much better with a very distinct style as they run and take difficult shots. Howard for example takes 10-12 shots per game and it will require five players to guard him. It’s similar to what we tried to do with Larkin so we’ll try to do the same on Howard.”
James Webb who had his best game of the season last week against EFES also sees what the challenge will be ahead for Maccabi, “They are in a great rhythm right now and Markus Howard is shooting the ball phenomenal. They have a bunch of offensive guys doing their role like Chima Moneke and Maik Kotsar. Defensively we have to keep them off of the glass, make them shoot tough shots and finish the possession with a rebound.”
Ivanovic has turned Baskonia into a squad that can pretty much do it all and will look to get back on the winning track after falling to Bologna in their last game.
“Baskonia is a team that plays very fast paced basketball,” Roman Sorkin added. “One of the keys is stopping their running game and controlling the rebound because they are also a very good offensive rebounding team. We have to stick to the game plan, improve week by week and win. They have continuity and are an excellent team they built there last year, but we have to deal with ourselves, come prepared with our game plan, stop their players who are very good and win the game.”
Webb agreed with the big man, “They are playing well right now and they have some great players and knockdown shooters. Defensively we have to play our game, get back to the basics, focus defensively and bring energy.”
The bottom line for Maccabi in this game is without a doubt going to be the defense, defense and more defense in order to find a way to stops Baskonia and come out of the game victorious.