Locking In: Nebo and Maccabi Tel Aviv ready for final Double Week of Euroleague season with postseason hopes on the line

Mar 19, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv begins their final regular season Euroleague Double Week with a home away from home game in Belgrade on Tuesday (21:05) which will be followed up by a road contest at Bayern Munich on Friday. The yellow-and-blue currently sit in 9th place with a 16-13 record which is good for a spot in the Play-In, while the Lyon based club is near the basement in 15th place with just 7 wins to go along with 22 losses, however, they are coming off of a victory over Anadolu EFES in their last game.

Head Coach Oded Katash’s goals are clear over the final five games of the regular season which is to win them all and see if they can sneak into 6th place which would automatically punch their ticket to the quarterfinals while avoiding to have to participate in the Play In. That task however, may be a pretty tough one with Fenerbahce currently occupying 6th place with a 18-11 record which is two more wins that Maccabi is currently sporting. Impossible it’s not, but realistically, the yellow-and-blue will lose at least one of their final five games which will probably mean a spot in the Play In is what Maccabi will need to be focusing on. Of course, the teams ahead of Maccabi will also be playing one another and will pick up losses but it will no doubt be a tough road to overcome to get into a spot that will automatically send them into the playoffs.

Oded Katash – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

The key with the Play In will be to get into 7th or 8th place which is much more of a possibility with Baskonia in 8th with 16 wins and Bologna in 7th with 17. Should Maccabi make their way into 7th or 8th place they will play one another with the 7th place team having home court advantage with the winner of that game heading to the playoffs. If Maccabi loses in that game they will still have a second chance to get into the quarterfinals as they will host the winner of the 9th and 10th place Play In game. But should they lose that game they will be eliminated from postseason play just like the loser of the 9th and 10th place game.

Right now, Maccabi and head coach Oded Katash has one challenge in front of them which is a tough game against Villeurbanne, “Not only did we have a hard time against Villeurbanne in our first game, they are better than their results, certainly after the coaching change and they are in good shape. They have played two nice home games recently and also against Panathinaikos on the road where they were tight for 35 minutes.”

“It would be very bad for us to think that it will be an easy game. They are very dangerous, they have big formations and they have Nando De Colo and Youssoupha Fall who are dominant. They have a lot of weapons and we have to be very focused because this is yet another significant week ahead of us. We don’t look more than a week ahead, as we have done all year. We are very close to the end of the regular season and it will be difficult to correct mistakes, so we must be focused.”

Noam Yaacov – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

One of the interesting players for Israeli basketball fans that Villeurbanne features is up and coming sensation Noam Yaacov. The guard was integral for the blue-and-white Under-20 team that captured the silver medal at this past summer’s European Championships.

“He is very impressive,” Katash said of Yaccov. “Little by little he has worked his way into the rotation and he is proving that he deserves to be there. He plays with maturity and in an impressive way. He is in control, plays simply and efficiently. I am happy for him, I didn’t get to coach him too much but everyone says he is a great kid and I am happy for him.”

Maccabi veteran Jake Cohen isn’t going to be underestimating the French club which would be a very big mistake should the club do just that, “We always want to keep improving, focus on what we can control and take it one possession at a time, the same things that have gotten us to this point, the same building blocks that we want to continue no matter what the situation is. To be consistent like that is our goal.”

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Big man Josh Nebo who is garnering plenty of attention from top level Euroleague teams knows that getting off to a good start will be critical as the past couple of games, Maccabi had some hiccups and needed to mount a comeback and expend plenty of energy.

“We’re happy that we were able to comeback and win those games but that is not how we want to start out, get down big and rely on making a comeback.”

As for his terrific play this season, Nebo who is averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds, spoke about what he has done to raise his level, “I try not to get involved in the comparisons and I try to be the best version of myself and take it game by game. I feel that when I do that I am pretty good and that is what I am focusing on. I feel like what makes me the best version of myself is focusing on process, working on my game, my body, watching film and doing all the things that will lead to success.”

Josh Nebo – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

At the end of the week, Maccabi will visit Bayern Munich which will also be a huge challenge for Katash, “Bayern is another team that has been going through a rebuilding process over time and they are playing much better. We saw that Zalgiris had a very difficult time against them offensively. Pablo Laso has taken time to work with them, but they are playing much better now than at the start of the season.”

For Nebo, getting through the final double week will be great, but he along with the team know full well that this is money time.

“I’m glad that this is the last double week, it’s been a long season and very tiring, but this is the most important stretch of the season so we have to push through and make sure that I am locked through and the team is locked through to make sure we get all the wins that we can.”

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