Maccabi Tel Aviv tips off yet another Double Week in Euroleague action when they welcome Partizan Belgrade on Wednesday (21:05) at Yad Eliyahu as the Yellow & Blue will look to get back onto the winning track after a devastating blowout loss at Real Madrid last week. Oded Katash’s squad enter the game with a 9-8 record good for 9th place while Zeljko Obradovic’s team are 8-9 and are two places behind in 11th place.
Then on Friday, Maccabi will head to Athens for a date with Panathinaikos at the OAKA Arena as they will look to sweep both games ahead of a State Cup quarterfinal clash on Monday at home against Bnei Herzliya.
When the clubs met up in Serbia back in November the hosts had the upper hand and took the 96-88 victory in what was Israeli abroad Yam Madar’s first time playing against Maccabi Tel Aviv since his Hapoel Tel Aviv days and scored 8 points in 13 minutes.
That game also saw two former Maccabi players also take on their previous team in center Matthias Lessort who scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in a tremendous performance while James Nunnally who had choice words for the Israeli organization when he left added 6 points in the 8-point victory.
Interestingly enough the Wade Baldwin was the Yellow & Blue’s best player that night with 23 points and 7 assists and he will want to try and duplicate that output on his home court, but the real question is can he after just returning from injury last week in Madrid.
Katash will no doubt need all hands on deck in this game as Partizan has been surging of late and will be a tough customer in from of the Maccabi faithful who will be needed to come out in full force to help the Yellow & Blue get back in the win column.
“Wade is a dominant player and it’s tough to get back into the swing of things after an injury,” Katash explained. “I hope that the team will do things a lot better this coming game. Wade is a leader, dominant and we need him. Even if we are winning with players being out injured it doesn’t mean that we can’t use his help especially a player like him.”
Bonzie Colson who has had a solid rookie season in the Euroleague and who was one of the main players along with Jalen Adams who helped Maccabi to a double overtime win against Hapoel Haifa this past Sunday, understands that the season has been a process for the club as the build towards a larger goal on step at a time.
“We have been playing well at home and trusting the process, our chemistry has been building. We have to continue doing what we have been doing. Playing well on offense and getting stops on defense, playing our basketball. I think we have to keep building on the momentum we have at home.”
“It’s a lot of games but we have to take it game by game and just focus on Partizan now and that’s our main focus. We have to make sure we are locked in mentally over the next few games. Partizan is a totally different team than Real Madrid and we are focused on them and on us. Taking it day by day and game by game basis.”
With one game this season under Maccabi’s belt against Partizan, Katash was able to see with his own eyes how Yam Madar has been developing under his own former coach in Obradovic, the bench boss who guided a young Katash on the court over twenty years ago with Panathinaikos.
“I am very happy to see how Yam has advanced and has become an integral player with Partizan. Yam is always improving and he is a legitimate Euroleague guard and is just going to be more dominant.”
As for the ex-Yellow & Blue men in Lessort and Nunally, Katash is well aware that they will both want to do their best against their former club. The fans will no doubt have their say on the matter but as we have all seen so many times in the past, when players return back to their former stomping ground they seem to always rise to the occasion.
“There is always the desire for former players to want to prove that they can play,” Katash explained. We felt that last game when we played there. It’s only natural and they have very high qualities, Nunnally is one of the best spot up shooters and Lessort one of the most active big men who is very good on the offensive boards.”
Colson feels that Maccabi now is not the same team that faced Partizan back a couple of months ago and are a much more well oiled unit. Plus being at home always helps he said, “Limiting the runs as best as possible and we are a more molded group now than when we played them last. Our chemistry with this group is now different. I think we need to continue to build. But I can’t wait for our fans and I think we have the best fans in the Euroleague. We feed off of their energy every home game and it will be an exciting game.”
For Katsash facing his old coach will be quite like a personal Derby as he will try and spur his team on to victory, “I am always happy to see him and to see that he still has that passion after so many years. He has so much energy. But I will prepare as I do every game but it will be a challenge against a coach like him.”
“Partizan are playing better as they play at a high pace. We need to be very focused and aggressive in order to disturb their play. We need to make them think and they are one of the teams that is playing the best basketball in the Euroleague. After last game we need to be prepared with our fans and use our strengths to our advantage.”