Lots of love and energy behind Maccabi in Monaco as postseason tips-off

Apr 24, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv opens up their Euroleague quarterfinal series against Monaco with game one on Tuesday night in the principality. The yellow-and-blue will play the first two games of the best-of-five series on the road with game two slated to take place on Thursday night as they will then return to Israel for game three and if necessary game 4 on the following Tuesday and Thursday evenings respectively. Should the series need to go to a decisive 5th game, that will be back in Monaco on either May 9/10.

Ahead of game one, Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo, forward Jake Cohen and of course head coach Oded Katash spoke to The Sports Rabbi just prior to departing the Holy Land.

“It’s very exciting and we are as healthy as we can be,” Katash began. “We know we have a tough matchup at an arena that has a very tough home court atmosphere and their team has great talent. They have some of the most dominant guards in the Euroleague and we need to play a perfect game. The two games against them this season were not easy. In Monaco they dominated us and at home we had to come back to win. We believe in ourselves and know we are in a much better spot than we were but that doesn’t guarantee anything.”

Dibartolomeo is looking forward to the challenge ahead and is excited to get going but is also very well aware that the series will not be an easy one, “We’ve worked hard this season up to this point I’m excited it’s here and now it’s about focusing on game one. Obviously it’s gonna be a tough challenge against three of the top guards in the Euroleague but it’s a team effort nobody’s gonna take on those guys themselves and we all have to help each other out. We have to understand they’re going to hit shots and they’re going to make plays but our job is to make it as difficult as we can for them.”

“I think offensively we have our rhythm and we make the right reads, but obviously the bigs need to be ready if the ball comes to them. We’ll try to take advantage of certain mismatches but all things that come in the flow of our offense we have to start from our defense.”

Veteran forward Jake Cohen spoke about what he feels the keys are going to be in order to take a win in Monaco while also looking forward to the upcoming challege, “It’s going to be a lot of fun it’s going to be a great challenge for the team and we have a great opportunity to do something special. It’s going to be a good couple weeks of basketball. We need to take them out of their rhythm. They are a team that’s very dangerous offensively if those guards get going and if their guys get a lot of offensive rebounds they are a very dangerous team so we are trying to focus on limiting those things.”

The bench boss also knows that while Maccabi can’t stop the lethal trio of guards in Mike James, Jordan Loyd and Elie Okobo they will need to do their best to keep their ability to damage the yellow-and-blue at a minimum, “We totally can’t stop their guards and we need to limit them and make them take tough shots. The rest of the things that we will need to do is going to involve a team effort.”

Maccabi will be looking to win at least one game in order to take the home court advantage and have a chance to close out the series at Yad Eliyahu. Should they fall in both games they will need to return to the principality for a 5th contest should they take the pair of games in Tel Aviv. However, right now Dibartolomeo and Cohen are focussing on game one and then will go from there.

“Game 1 is the most important because game 1 is what were focused on,” the captain said, “After that we will focus on game 2 and the key in any series is to get better each game. The teams that make the right adjustments and get better are the teams that are going to come out of a 5 game series.”

“All our focus is on winning game 1,” Cohen explained. “I don’t like looking at a bigger picture thing like winning 1 of 2, that’s not helpful for me. I want to prepare for game 1 the best I can and look forward to game 2 when game 1 is finished.”

Katash doesn’t want to take it it game by game or quarter to quarter but from possession to possession in order to advance to the Final Four, “It’s not easy and we can’t think ahead too much and think of games 3 and 4. We need to play every game and win quarter by quarter. It’s going to be a very physical game against the best rebounding team in the Euroleague and that’s something we struggled with in the past. We need to take it possession by possession.”

The Monaco Arena, where Michael Jordan said he took part in the greatest basketball game he ever played in will welcome close to 5,000 fans with roughly 800 who will be dressed head to toe in yellow-and-blue. That of course will be a big help for Maccabi as they try to give a little bit of a Yad Eliyahu feel to their road games.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Katash noted. “There are few places that can give similar vibes to Yad Eliyahu and we need to use the fans to push us towards our goals. I think playing in front of our supporters will help push us towards a win and make us want to go even further in the Euroleague.

Dibartolomeo is also excited that there will plenty of yellow-and-blue in Monaco, “You know I love the support for Maccabi and for the team it has been amazing all year. They come on every road trip. I’m excited to see them and I’m sure were going to hear them in the gym and I hope we can pull out at least a split.”

Cohen had the last word on what it’s like to have the Maccabi fans with the team on the road in a critical postseason matchup, “It’s going to be a lot of fun a playoff atmosphere. There’s nothing like it. It’s gonna be a blast I know there is going to be a lot of love and energy behind us and it’s only going to help.”

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