Maccabi Tel Aviv earn home court advantage throughout playoffs after Derby win

May 22, 2024 | Uncategorized

Maccabi Tel Aviv secured their place at the top of the Winner League table going into the playoffs with an 88-82 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby at Yad Eliyahu on Wednesday night.

The teams came into the game with just a game and a half separating them, with Maccabi in first place with 22 wins and 4 losses and Hapoel with 21 wins and 6 losses, with the top place in the standings and home court advantage throughout the playoffs on the line. Each team played like it early with defensive pressure. While Lorenzo Brown for Maccabi and Tomer Ginat and Braian Angola for Hapoel led the scoring early with 5 points each in the first quarter, both teams showed nerves in front of a large crowd of fanatics, including Josh Nebo missing an early alley-oop from Brown in the first few minutes of the game with Maccabi shooting a lowly 36.8% for 2 in the first quarter. After 10 minutes, Hapoel held a 20-16 lead.

Roman Sorkin and John Holland – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


Maccabi started the second quarter with Roman Sorkin and Jasiel Rivero under the basket and looking ominous, but Hapoel managed to keep the home team at bay through 3-point shooting from John Holland and buckets to Jalen Hoard who ended the quarter, with the latter having a total of 10 points to his name halfway through the quarter as Hapoel was leading 29-24. While Brown added 3 points in the quarter and Sorkin finished the half with 8 points himself, Hapoel extended their lead going into the main break with a halfcourt buzzer-beater from Ennis on the way to 10 points for the half to give the visitors a 40-31 advantage, with Hoard leading all scorers with 12 points.

While a derby always has a special energy, the fans seemed to lift and raise the decibels to a different level in the third quarter, as the points started to flow a little quicker for the home team. While the noise caused Hapoel to commit a 24 second violation, on the other end Brown scored a 3-pointer to draw scores level at 51-51 with three and a half minutes remaining in the quarter. Maccabi then threatened to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter, but Kyle Alexander showed desperation to chase down Brown and block his layup attempt, while shortly after a Sorkin jumper was denied after he traveled. Maccabi ultimately stole back the lead and went into the last break with a 58-54 advantage over the visitors, after a quarter in which they scored 27 points (almost as many points as they scored in the first half) to Hapoel’s 14 points.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


The buckets continued to fall, with Rafi Menco joining the party with a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter after missing his previous two attempts from long range. Although Hapoel initially refused to roll over, Maccabi continued to put on pressure. In the space of a minute, Brown hit another 3-pointer, Hapoel committed another 24-second violation, Colson pulled down an offensive rebound and basket following which Hapoel coach Stefanos Dedas was pinned with a technical foul for expressing frustration, then Sorkin hit a 3-pointer, with Maccabi taking a 77-66 lead with a little under five minutes remaining in regulation. From then on, Hapoel was unable to claw back, with Maccabi winning the derby by 6 points and securing home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Brown (19 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal), Sorkin (18 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 blocks) and Nebo (13 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist)led the scoring for the visitors, while Hoard (22 points and 5 rebounds ), Ennis (17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal) and Angola (16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block) led the scoring for the visitors.

Oded Katash – Photo credit: Dov Halickman


“I’m happy that we finally arrived in the second half,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said after the game. “In the first half, offensively we weren’t spaced well enough. I liked the way that we came onto the court in the second half, defensively with energy and also offensively. Hapoel wanted to slow down the game. We were able to get back to our pace in the second half and win the game. It was important to also get home court advantage throughout the playoffs, which cannot be understated.

“It’s also imported for us to have this game now against Hapoel Tel Aviv with Dedas’s special style of play,” Katash continued. “I think that was good to come up against it now before the playoffs. We’re also playing without Wade [Baldwin IV] and John [DoBartolomeo], we have a shorter roster. Now that we’ve secured top spot, I hope that in the remaining games we can extend the rotation for other players to play.”

Stefanos Dedas – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman


“I think for 25 minutes we were better strategically and mentally than Maccabi,” Dedas said after the game. “Then they made a run, they punished some defensive mistakes of ours. We let Tamir [Blatt] shoot, Lorenzo [Brown] shoot, [Roman] Sorkin had 3-4 situations with spot-up shots. At the same time, we created a lot of open spot-up shots that we didn’t make. Basically, we made tough shots but didn’t make easy shots. Even with Maccabi leading by 9 points towards the end, I thought we could still win. We pressed and forced turnovers towards the end.”

Dedas was also critical of the referees, particular in the second half: “I complained to the referees. I will remind the referees again – Maccabi players stayed in the paint 20 seconds, they had 8 fresh throws in 2 minutes at the start of the third quarter. They have different criteria. I’ll talk to my people, I’ll talk to my people. I will analyze the game and I will not leave it like this. I came here for a job. I don’t care if I’m unpleasant with people – I’ll do everything I can.

“Congratulations to Maccabi,” Dedas clarified. “They didn’t win because of the referees, but I’ll still complain.”

Bar Timor and Bonzie Colson – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


“Just regrouping for us is important,” Colson spoke of the ability to come out in the second half and play better. “Our culture since I’ve been here, we pay each other to get our best in both sides of the floor. There was adversity in the first half in both sides of the floor, but we played more aggressively in the second half on both sides of the floor and got the win.”

“Me personally, I’ve moved on from both of those games – Pana and the Cup. At the end of the day, this is our job. We go out there to win every game and sometimes we don’t. As long as we learned lessons with the losses, and we did that. It shows a lot about our character.”

“The importance of a derby, hearing both crowds. We feel the energy of it. It’s still the game e love, but it’s obviously a little more when yo want to see Tel Aviv yelllow after a derby game.”

Braian Angola – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


“They made a lot of open shots,” Angola said of the second half. “They went on a run, you’re not going to keep a team one game away from the Final Four to 30 points again in the second half. We made little mistakes and a team like this will make the most of it when you make mistakes.”

Katash annd Colson also spoke about the significance of guaranteeing home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

“It’s very important, even without taking into account how crazy this season has been, it helped us win the championship last season,” Katash said. “However, it doesn’t happen automatically. We still need to come and do the work and be focused. I hope we’ll have Wade for the semifinal.”

Photo credit: Basket.co.il


“It’s important,” Colson concurred. “Obviously, playing in front of our fans. Feeding off their energy, we’ve missed them all year. One of our goals was to achieve home court and we’ve now accomplished it.”

On the other side, although they’re sitting in second place in the standings, there are some questions about Hapoel given their turnover of personnel this season, including recently replacing Danny Franco with Dedas and Ennis only joining the team in the last couple of weeks.

“This is Tyler’s second game and we’re all still trying to learn coach’s system,” Angola said. “At the end of the day we have a lot of high IQ basketball players. With the people we have we have a good chance to make some noise and play for a championship.

Tyler Ennis – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


“I don’t think there’s any concern,” Angola continued, answering a question as to whether Hapoel is worried about failing in money time after bowing out of both the EuroCup and the State Cup at the quarterfinal stage. “We’ve had many changes during the season, chemistry with new players very month. I feel like we’ll be fine. Today it was two or three baskets against a really good team. We need to fix mistakes, they won a lot of 50-50 balls. We need to fix that and make our shots better. I think we’ll watch film and go from there.”

The teams will next play either side of the Holy Sabbath, with Maccabi traveling to third-placed Ramat Gan on Friday afternoon (14:00 IDT / 7:00 EDT) and Hapoel traveling to fourth-placed Jerusalem on Saturday night (21:20 IDT / 14:20 EDT). Maccabi will then take on Kiryat Ata at home in their final game before the playoffs on Sunday night (18:30 IDT / 11:30 EDT).

“We’ve got practice tomorrow and then we play again against Ramat Gan,” Colson said. “We’re happy with the win, but we’ve got another game in two days.”

Josh Nebo – Photo credit: Basket.co.il

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