Maccabi completes double week sweep over Turkish duo to move into Euroleague playoff picture: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Mar 12, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

After coming into the week outside of the playoff standings and with daunting games against a top-4 team at home and the reigning champions away, there are some people out there who were expecting that this double week may have effectively ended Maccabi’s chances to make the playoffs this season. The Yellow & Blue had other things in mind, with morale-boosting wins over both Turkish teams to give them a 15-13 record, equal with three other teams at spots 6-9 in the standings.

It started on Wednesday night at Yad Eliyahu when, after a slow start, Maccabi defeated Fenerbahçe 78-74. Lorenzo Brown (21 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists) and Wade Baldwin IV (15 points and 2 rebounds) led the scoring for Maccabi, while captain John DiBartolomeo (10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals) had a game-high 21 performance index rating. For Fener, Nigel Hayes-Davis (16 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist) and Dyshawn Pierre (15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists) led the scoring.

Then on Friday night, Maccabi had a huge 86-64 away win at Anadolu Efes, a game in which, quite the opposite of Wednesday night, Maccabi came out guns-a-blazing, scoring 33 points in the first quarter – more than they scored in the whole second half. Baldwin (23 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal) and Jarell Martin (13 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist) led all scorers and Josh Nebo (10 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block) had a game-high performance index rating of 22. The home side struggled all night, with Will Clyburn (12 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal), Elijah Bryant (11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists) and Bryant Dunston (10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block) in double-figures. Maccabi’s game was highlighted by shooting 15/35 from beyond the arc – including seven 3s in the first quarter alone – and playing a complete defensive game, as the scoreboard shows.

“It is a great win for us,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said after the win against Efes. “We succeeded to beat two great teams [this week]. We showed a lot of character this week, but still we have a lot of work ahead of us. If the ball goes in or not, sometimes you cannot control it as a coach. We had a great shooting night, but I am proud of the way we played defense. Offensively, we shared the ball well and were lucky to hit those shots. But on defense, we were consistent.”

Here are a few of my reflections from the EuroLeague week that was.

John Dibartolomeo – Photo Credit: Elad Goldstein, Maccabi Tel Aviv

The Good: John DiBartolomeo

The heading reads “Good,” but I think “Great” would better describe DiBartolomeo’s week, with his contribution both on the scoreboard and in terms of leadership invaluable for Katash. He was instrumental in his MVP performance against Fener and was influential again against Efes (8 points, 3 assists and 3 steals), with a game-high 25 +/-.

“I think every player needs to play to their strengths,” DiBartolomeo said after Wednesday night’s win. “Right now this is my role – I do the best I can. Every player wants to play more. I want to be ready when I am called. The staff gives me confidence. I have a role and I do my best for the team.”

There is a lot to like about the Maccabi captain, but if we have to focus on one part of his game, it’s his knack for knowing when to leave his opponent to make a steal.

John Dibartolomeo – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

On Wednesday night, with Fener looking to make a run down 10 points with 7:30 left in the game, DiBartolomeo left his opponent, Scottie Wilbekin (7 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal), to steal the ball from behind Johnathan Motley (12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) as the Fener big was trying to maneuver his way past Martin to the basket. DiBartolomeo then ran towards the other end of the floor, drawing a foul from Wilbekin along the way.

Then, when Fener was within 1 point and with the ball with less than half a minute to play, Marko Guduric (8 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists and 1 steal) tried to pass the ball from outside of the arch to Nemanja Bjelica (6 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist), but DiBartolomeo again left his opponent to take the ball from behind – a career-high fourth steal – to the cheers of the crowd, helping secure the win.

While on Friday night the result was not in as much doubt as it was on Wednesday night, DiBartolomeo again made two big steals in the last quarter while Efes was trying to make a run to get back into the game. With a little over 4 minutes left in the game, Shane Larkin (5 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal) drove to the basket and then tried to flick a pass outside to an open Amath M’Baye (7 points ,3 rebounds and 2 assists). DiBartolomeo, who was a few feet from Larkin as a result of a pick-and-roll play, got in between the two and made a steal, turning it into another Maccabi offensive play.

John Dibartolomeo – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Then with 2:18 left in the game, DiBartolomeo read the play to leave Larkin alone in one corner of the court to intercept a pass from Clyburn to Tibor Pleiss (4 points and 2 rebounds) close to the other corner, again preventing Efes from scoring on offense.

On the defensive end, together with his 3-point shot – a combined 4/11 over the week, including one as time expired at the end of the third quarter against Fener to give Maccabi a 5-point buffer, thanks to some great maneuvering from Suliman Braimoh – shows how important DiBartolomeo is to this team.

John Dibartolomeo and Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It feels like John makes those shots all the time, I was so confident when it left his hand,” Jake Cohen said of DiBartolomeo’s buzzer beater. “Huge steal at the end, he is a great player and we are lucky to have him as our teammate and captain.”

The Bad: The rebounding

In both of these games, Maccabi lost the rebound battle to their opponents: on Wednesday night, 40 rebounds (14 offensive and 26 defensive) to Fener’s 41 rebounds (17 offensive and 24 defensive); Friday night 34 rebounds (9 offensive and 25 defensive) to Efes’s 38 rebounds (12 offensive and 26 defensive).

Looking at Maccabi’s 5 bigs – Martin, Roman Sorkin, Jake, Braimoh and Nebo – they combined for 18 rebounds in just under 85 minutes against Fener and 17 rebounds in just under 74 minutes against Efes. To be fair, Nebo himself had a very good game against Efes and was in double figures.

Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“I think that today, we just played good defense,” Nebo said after the game. “I feel like we rebounded well and that allowed us to get out in transition. Usually, we struggle on the rebounds and we can’t get out and run, so I think today we did a good job at playing defense and rebounding.”

However, with that said, overall Maccabi’s average rebounds per game is higher than both teams (34.7 versus 34.4 and 32.4, respectively). Perhaps Alex Poythress – who has been out of action with a torn wrist ligament since early December and who is rumored to be returning to the lineup in the coming weeks – can help in this role going into the tail-end of the season. Nebo himself will want to make sure that he can provide a performance like Friday night’s on a more consistent basis. In any event, this is an area which the Yellow & Blue will need to improve if they are to be a real threat this season.

Tyler Dorsey – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

The Ugly: Refereeing

With 2:45 left in the third quarter on Wednesday night and Maccabi ahead 56-53, Hayes-Davis drove to the basket for a layup. Nebo seemingly perfectly blocked the ball, however he was called for a foul. The crowd was upset and Katash was given a technical foul for his reaction to the foul call, which resulted in Tyler Dorsey (donuts in the stats) going to the line to take one free throw. Dorsey missed the free throw and the referee then gave the ball back to Dorsey for the free fouls for the defensive foul on Nebo. While Dorsey made the next shot, the ball should have been given to Hayes-Davis – who had drawn the foul. Instead, due to Dorsey taking the shot, Maccabi was then given the ball to inbound, with the two foul shots erased (per the rules).

More than 3 minutes passed between Nebo’s foul and the clock starting again, which was mostly the referees deliberating over what to do in the midst of the confusion.

Dimitrios Itoudis – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

After the game, Fener coach Dimitris Itoudis was clearly upset with the way that this played out: “Allow me to say something, I really and honestly hope that I’m not going to be punished for it – because it’s nothing against the referees about playing some kind of significant role, but at the moment that it was a technical foul and a foul means three free throws granted for us. Tyler Dorsey made a mistake and he went to shoot the second without knowing if it was two technical fouls, one technical foul, he missed the first one. My question is just a question, the referee, as a human, also made a mistake and handed the ball to the wrong person. Do you hear me loudly? So it was the wrong person over there. They know better to justify the rule and they see the wrong person. They didn’t identify that at that moment, they gave the ball to the wrong person and that person shot the ball.

This was an embarrassing moment for the referees and – although only human – everyone will hope that there won’t be more incidents like this as we reach the pointy end of the season.

Up Next: Nes Ziona away and Baskonia at home

In Israel league action, Maccabi (1st spot, 15-3) plays away at Nes Ziona (6th spot, 9-9) on Monday evening (17:30 IST / 10:30 IST). They will then host Baskonia – one of the other teams with 15 wins and 13 losses – on Thursday night (21:05 IST / 14:05 EST) against.

Maccabi suffered its worst defeat for the season when it played against Vitoria in early November, losing 87-116. While it seems doubtful that Maccabi could win by more than 29 points this week to take the advantage in a tie-breaker situation come season’s end, they will be looking to get revenge in the return leg in order to attempt to make the tie-breaker irrelevant.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Elad Goldstein, Maccabi Tel Aviv

“They are in great shape as well and a team that has been very even with us,” Baldwin said of Baskonia after Friday night’s game. “They dominated us in the first game, so our next game is the most important, to try to improve to 16-13 and get a little bit of separation from that eighth spot. We have been there all year, it has been on our minds all year. We will try to get a little bit of separation and see where this thing can take us.”

Sign up for our newsletter


You may also like…


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!