Katash remembers Lubin, Maccabi Tel Aviv goes back to basics in win over PAO

Jan 26, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

There’s not doubt that this was an emotional win for Maccabi Tel Aviv as they not only disposed of Panathinaikos 90-75 as the players and especially the staff, celebrated jumping up and down in delight following the victory, they also broke out of a slump that has seen them lose a pair of Euroleague games aa well as a pair of Israeli league contests as well. Add to that the rollercoaster that head coach Oded Katash had been in the last couple of weeks that led up to the passing off his close friend Lior Lubin a few days ago and it’s been quite the stretch for the yellow-and-blue who are now 13-10 in Euroleqgue play.

However, when assistant coach Josep Berrocal spoke after the defeat to Kiryat Ata he said that the key was to get back to the basics in order to get back in the win column, that’s exactly what the club did.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Djordje Kostic

It began with bringing back the starting lineup that included Jake Cohen for the first time since December 21st which is the one that led Maccabi to much success last season. From there it was just going back to normal and playing smooth basketball in order to get on track and look like the team that is now 13-10 in an almost impossible situation playing home games in Belgrade.

“We came back to the basics,” Katash said. “Offensively, we had a flow and shared the ball and we showed that we can overcome a difficult situation. I hope this win will give us confidence that we played the right way with the right energy against a team that is tough to beat.”

Cohen, who didn’t step on the court the last three continental clashes and was pretty much wiped out of the Euroleague rotation got busy early on as the veteran big man knocked down a pair of 3-pointers (but also picked up 3 first quarter fouls which meant he wouldn’t see the floor for quite some time but also hit a third triple in the third quarter. But truth be told, this was the most effective Cohen has been in quite some time and after not having been in the opening five since the yellow-and-blue hosted Red Star Belgrade, it was back to the basics and it clearly had a positive impact on the club.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We knew who we were playing and how they defend, that is why we went with Jake,” Oded Katash said. “We have 12 players to choose from for every game and we correctly felt that Jake could punish them for his spots against their defense and that is what it was. Against another team it could be a different player.”

Lorenzo Brown who has a superb game himself also spoke about Cohen’s contribution, “That’s what Jake does. He’s the X factor. He should definitely get more minutes. He’s working his way back in there, he’s being positive about everything and we will see a lot more of him I’m pretty sure.”

The Baldwin and Brown duo hadn’t put together a good game for quite some time, but both were important in the win as they impacted the final result with stellar play. Both were really on their game so to speak and one could see that Baldwin was making it personal wanting to find a way to make sure that his head coach would go home with the W.

Brown, who was being observed by Spain National Team coach Sergio Scariolo at the game, told The Sports Rabbi when asked if he liked what he saw from Zo, said with a smile that he definitely did as the coach will be selecting his February window roster over the next couple of weeks and the word is that Brown will be part of the 2025 European qualifiers.

“Much needed win,” Brown said about he and Baldwin’s game. “We all clicked, played together as a team and got that win. We are just adjusting. We are getting back on normal time back in Israel getting back our gym access. Everyone is in the lab working hard. I feel like we will see a lot more of that. Getting more treatment so that’s a plus for everybody, we got banged up but the only thing is the travel. We have a weird travel schedule coming up here soon but we just deal with it.”

Katash extrapolated on some of the challenges the team will face while also explaining the issues that the team had to overcome, “We were in a big slump and one that was an identity crisis. We didn’t project the right energy, but this is how to come out of it against this type of team. We had the right body language and we won an important game. Looking ahead we have a tough schedule but we have games every two days and this was very important with Nes Ziona and a double week in Spain coming up and this win brought us back to our basics.”

Photo Credit: Djordje Kostic

One could see the amount of class Maccabi Tel Aviv brought to Pionir Arena in Belgrade as guests, but not just any guests, more like partners as the local staff appreciated everything that the yellow-and-blue brass had done since they began playing there at the outset of the war. In addition the entire game presentation was done as if it was a full arena in Tel Aviv. Staff in suits, music and more as you could feel that this was a true Euroleague game in every sense.

Right before tipoff, in a ceremony that Maccabi put together, the two clubs stood together in a circle at center court for a moment of silence in memory of Lior Lubin who lost his battle with cancer and passed away earlier in the week. Katash who has been extremely close with the former player and coach spoke passionately about his friend.

Oded Katash and Lior Lubin – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

“It’s very hard for me to speak about him. I have there big sisters but Lior is like a brother to me and was my little one but sometimes was my big. The last period was very tough on me especially, the last week and I felt that I fought it with him. Lior a hero, a role model and I know what I was privileged to gain from our relationship. We spoke a lot about basketball and the very intense time in Athens about life and about modesty and to take things in stride.”

“He left so many things for me I always think about what Lior would have done or said. It was ironic that we played against Panathinaikos and there were memories that came rushing back which is not easy to deal with. I am in pain but I know what Lior would want me to do. He is always in my heart, it was very emotional. I love him and always will love him.”

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