Maccabi takes Monaco in more ways than one

Apr 25, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in Euroleague postseason play as they cruised to a 79-67 win over Monaco to take a 1-0 lead in their best of five quarterfinal series. With the victory the yellow-and-biue also take home court advantage as game two will be held Thursday back in Monte Carlo while games 3 and 4 will be next week in Israel.

The backcourt duo of Wade Baldwin and Lorenzo Brown out-duelled Monaco’s trio of guards Mike James, Jordan Loyd and Elie Okobo while Bonzie Colson scored a pair of important triples in the first quarter, Darrun Hilliard did serous damage in the third period while Josh Nebo made his mark in the second half to overwhelm the hosts and notch the win.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv App

Baldwin led the way with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, Brown added 15 points, Nebo chipped in with 12 points, Colson scored 11 points and Hilliard ended the night with 10 points in the win. James and Diallo paced Monaco with 15 points each while Donatas Motiejunas and Elie Okobo each scored 12 points in the loss.

“It was really intense and aggressive game,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said. “We approached the game well, we controlled the defensive rebounds which was the main goal for us and we stopped their running game. We won the game through defense and I’m really happy. But this series will be a battle until the end.”

A very disappointed Sasa Obradovic

“Congrats to Maccabi we weren’t mentally ready to play this game,” a disappointed Sasa Obradovic began. “It seemed that we wanted the game to end fast and there were some shots which we had to score. They were much more physical than us. Our shot percentage from 3 was not good and the 7 turnovers in the 3rd quarter cost us easy points on the fast break which decided the game.”

Oded Katash’s squad began their 2023 postseason campaign at the Gaston Medecin Arena in Monaco accompanied by close to 800 yellow-and-blue fans who made their presence felt the minute the gates were opened. With Israeli flags galore along with the Independence Day Holiday of Yom Haatzmaut as a backdrop the Maccabi faithful called the names out of each player one by one as they waved to the crowd which made up about a quarter of the attendance.

Mike James – Photo Credit: Euroleague

However, that didn’t stop John Brown, Alpha Diallo, Mike James and Elie Okobo from scoring for Monaco but Wade Baldwin with a jumper and Bonzie Colson with a pair of triples for Maccabi Tel Aviv kept the game all knotted up at 8-8 midway through the first quarter. Lorenzo Brown hit a floater, James answered with a layup, Darrun Hilliard nailed a turnaround jumper while Baldwin had the last word with a triple at the buzzer to give the yellow-and-blue an 18-16 lead after ten minutes of play.

Casino Royale

While most of the people that were visiting the Principality were meandering around the world famous Monte Carlo Casino with all of its glitz and glamour, hanging out by the yachts checking out the Prince’s automobile collection or catching a bite to eat while enjoying the scenery, there was nary an indication that there was a basketball game that would take place on the evening.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Maccabi didn’t mind that there was little attention given to the game in town as Hilliard and Baldwin both got busy to begin the second quarter, Lorenzo Brown then added a reverse layup and Alex Poythress scored to bump up the Maccabi lead to 26-22 with five minutes left in the first half despite the egregious foul calls on Oded Katash’s squad. Baldwin hit a long two, Brown went to the hoop for a pair, Alpha Diallo dunked twice, Hilliard fed Poythress as he glided to the hoop for a dunk but Motiejunas put in a pair to stay close as Maccabi stayed in front 36-33 at halftime.

The Sports Rabbi Anne the legendary footballer David Trezeguet

One person who was in attendance and was busy at halftime was French footballing great David Trezuguet who was soaked up every minute of the first half and took selfies galore with anyone who came by including yours truly. I remember seeing him play in person for Les Bleus back in 2005 during World Cup qualifying against Israel at the old Ramat Gan Stadium in a contest that he scored in the 50th minute but was then sent off five minutes later, however, Avram Grant’s blue-and-white were only able to milk out a draw.

Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Perhaps the star’s presence right in front of the basket Maccabi was scoring on helped out as Nebo made quick work on that floor with a dunkaroo and Brown added a layup, Baldwin added a 3-point play and Nebo put in another bucket to help Maccabi to an 11-3 run and a 47-36 lead midway through the third period. Nebo put down a miracle hoop, Hilliard drilled a pair of triples, Brown added one as well, but the parade of Monaco players to free throw line kept the hosts hanging around but down 60-50 as Maccabi took a 10-point lead into the final frame.

The Monaco basketball court

The basketball facility which was renovated two summers ago just prior to Monaco’s first season in the Euroleague saw a huge facelift that added close to 1,000 seats in the arena that is located underneath the Stade Louis II Football Stadium. Light coloured wooden chairs with a pair of balconies at either end seemed to mesh perfectly with the unique dark parquet which is unique to any of the continental hoops floor.

It seemed that the yellow-and-blue enjoyed playing on this court as they kept pouring on the offense with Brown, Colson and Baldwin all finding points, James scored from the outside and inside for Sasa Obradovic’s club but Nebo answered with a jam to keep Maccabi ahead 68-57 with five minutes remaining in regulation time. Baldwin and Nebo found the bucket, John Dibartolomeo went from deep to score his first points of the game and then fouled out, but no matter as Maccabi grabbed the precious road win as they along with their fans celebrated with Israelis flag, Hatikvah and in song to kick off the Yom Haatzmaut celebrations.

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