Keeping the eye on the bigger goal: Maccabi Tel Aviv ends first round of Euroleague play 9-8 with games aplenty coming up

Jan 8, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Real Madrid cruised past Maccabi Tel Aviv 98-65 in Euroleague play this past Friday night in Spain as the Yellow & Blue’s record moved to 9-8 after the first round of continental play. Oded Katash’s squad started out slow and and never recovered after going down 22-7 after the first quarter of play as they will now turn their sights to a home date with Hapoel Haifa in Israeli league play on Sunday night.

Maccabi will look to defeat the Carmel Reds in back to back games after having eased by Sharon Drucker’s team last week 80-59 although they will be with somewhat of a different squad than the last meeting. Lorenzo Brown will not be in the lineup as Jalen Adams will be back in as well as Darrun Hilliard who also did not play this past Tuesday in Romema. However, Bonzie Colson, Jarell Martin and Josh Nebo will all suit up for the Yellow & Blue as they will look to put the disappointing loss to Real behind them quickly with a pair of Euroleague games coming up this week at home against Partizan Belgrade and on the road at Panathinaikos. Add to that a State Cup quarterfinal clash with a well rested Bnei Herzliya next Monday and you’ve got games aplenty.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

All in all, Katash is content with finishing the first round one game over .500 and as he said after the 33-point defeat that he would have taken a 9-8 record without a doubt had that been offered before the season got underway. With that in mind, Maccabi will have 9 home games coming up in round two and will look to keep pace and find a way into the postseason.

“We have to keep our heads up,” Katash said. “There will be some nights like this, [but] hopefully not many. Nothing went our way from the beginning, but that can happen especially against a team like Real. We have to keep improving, keep working hard. That can happen; we need to learn from it. Keep our heads up. Like all EuroLeague teams, I feel we missed some games [in the first half of the season] but we also had some great wins, especially at home. Considering we built the team from zero. At the beginning of the season, I would have taken a 9-8 record with both hands.”

The players themselves also feel that despite the rough road loss, they are where they want to be in order to make some noise over the last 17 games of the Euroleague season, “It was a tough game for us,” Josh Nebo began. “The first round has been solid for us and we could have been better but we are in a pretty good position heading into the second round. We have to be consistent and continue to win games and put us into the position to make it to the playoffs.”

Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

There’s no question that Katash has to feel good about the 9-8 record and despite a couple of blowout losses, the players and staff have both learnt plenty from the opening round and what needs to still have to come together in order to be a threat to not only punch their ticket to the playoffs but also be a threat in the postseason. But right now they are on the outside looking in in 9th place as they are one of four teams which have the identical record as the Yellow & Blue with Zalgiris, Anadolu EFES and Red Star Belgrade all sitting at 9-8.

It should also be noted that this trio of teams have all made additions to their rosters in the past couple of weeks with Achille Polonara joining Zalgiris, Chris Singleton resigning with EFES and Facu Campazzo signing with Red Star (although he has yet to be cleared to play due to the Euroleague’s finance panel signing ban).

Maccabi did get back Wade Baldwin in the Real game but it was clear as day that it will take time for the guard to return to his prime playing shape and he will not take part in the Hapoel Haifa league game on Sunday as he was not listed by coach Oded Katash. It looks like Jalen Adams will remain with the club but as the bench boss has said numerous times he is trying to find a replacement for Alex Poythress which has obviously been a difficult task. Jarell Martin has showed signs that he can be that go to guy and Roman Sorkin has also provided hope in the center position but both are still in the beginning stages of the Euroleague careers and Katash would obviously like to find a veteran that knows the ins and outs of the continental competition.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

As Maccabi has turned the corner in the 2022-23 Euroleague season, they have most definitely improved but so have many of the other teams that they are competing with for a spot in the playoffs for a chance to make it to the Final Four which will take place in Lithuania. Five teams, Olympiacos, Real, Barcelona, Baskonia and Monaco are all knotted up at the top of the standings with a record of 11-6, Fenerbahce is in 6th at 10-7 followed by the Maccabi quartet of teams while Partizan Belgrade and Bologona breathing down their necks with an 8-9 record.

The Yellow & Blue will need to figure out of what they have is enough and if there is a player or two available that they feel can help them out to push them over the edge and give them an advantage to finish in the top 8.

Jalen Adams, who is in his first season in the Euroleague feels that Maccabi is in the right spot to make their move as he looked ahead to what will be coming up in the next few months of play, “We started to come together and jell towards the end of the first round. We have to pick up on that and not hang our heads over this one loss. It’s a new round, a new push, a new goal. We just got to keep our eye on the bigger goal.”

Jalen Adams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

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