Maccabi’s defensive woes come to forefront in loss to EFES ahead of Tel Aviv Derby

Feb 9, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv are like a broken leaky faucet when it comes to their defense as the water just keeps on flowing and flowing and flowing similar to how they continue to give up points a plenty to every opponent they face. 105, 106, 109, 92 and the list goes on and on and on with no end in sight. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s Real Madrid, Baskonia or Anadolu EFES, they can’t stop the waterfall of points, shots and chances that the opposition is getting and it certainly doesn’t matter if Lorenzo Brown is in the lineup or not. The yellow-and-blue defense needs a total renovation from the ground up, nothing less.

Oded Katash’s squad has only allowed 79 points or under 6 times this season with two of those ending up being losses. At the end of the day, that type of defense is not going to be enough to win when it comes down to crunch time not in the Euroleague and not in the Israeli league as well.

Shane Larkin – Photo credit: Euroleague.net


Last season, Maccabi gave up 79 points or less in 18 games including two of those coming in the quarterfinal series against Monaco. Now the argument cane be made that the club’s home games have been played in an empty arena in Belgrade and that has probably allowed higher scores to occur without 11,000 rabid fans on top of the opposition at Yad Eliyahu, but still the difference is stark.

In order for Maccabi to have any chance going forward with their 13-13 record is if they begin to clamp down on defense. The real question though is, can they?

Antonius Cleveland and John Dibartolomeo are two terrific defenders, that is known as is Wade Baldwin but has been suffering from a back injury this season which limits him on the defensive end. However, with the majority of players returning from last year’s squad shouldn’t have had such a dismal effect on their D.

Antonius Cleveland – Photo credit: Euroleague.net


While Maccabi is scoring at a 86.4 clip this season compared to last year when they checked in with 83.6 points per game on average, they have been conceding 88.4 points per game the 23/24 campaign and 80.9 in the last. It’s going to be very hard to win with statistics like that.

Joe Thomasson, who just signed on for the balance of the season should help out on the defensive end of the floor with his length and using that to his advantage on the floor and he will also be a help baring the burden offensively as well. But Maccabi needs a complete remake on the defensive end in order to find their way to the promised land.

Following their defeat to Anadolu EFES in what was a home game for the Turkish club being played in Riga, Latvia due to the security and political situation between the two countries, James Webb sounded down and out when he spoke about the loss and also mentioned the defensive woes that Maccabi is experiencing.

James Webb – Photo credit: Dov Halickman


“It was a tough loss, they played well, they hit a lot of tough shots and our defense wasn’t up to par. We gave them to many offensive rebounds and at the end they got the better of us. We have to keep fighting and put this game behind us.”

Center Josh Nebo agreed wholeheartedly with his teammate about Maccabi’s defense, “Our defense wasn’t at the level we needed it to be to give us a chance to win. We gave up too many offensive rebounds and open threes, we have to be better as a team executing the game plan defensively.”

Maccabi may be pulling down 13.2 offensive boards this year to lead the league, but they certainly not doing their fair share on the defensive end with just 22.6 per game good for 13th place which means that, yes, many of the yellow-and-blue opponents are taking plenty of offensive rebounds themselves.

Josh Nebo – Photo credit: Euroleague.net


But it’s not only rebounds, it’s on ball defense and perimeter defense which saw Maccabi give up 11/26 (42.3%) from downtown as well as 27/45 good for 60% from inside the arc. Those numbers are just too high for a team that is seriously trying to make it to the Euroleague playoffs.

Katash spoke about another issue in addition to the defense at the postgame press conference, “We missed a lot defensively and didn’t use our fouls the right way especially in the first half where we should have led by 10 points.”

The bench boss also mentioned using fouls right after the game and that was no doubt a point that drew his ire. You have 4 fouls to use in each quarter before a team gets into bonus and a foul will cost you a pair f free throws. Teams need to be intelligent and use those to their advantage whether it’s to stop a break, in the paint to halt a an easy basket or kill a club’s momentum without having to use a timeout.

Will Clyburn – Photo credit: Anadolu EFES


Maccabi did not use them to their advantage and that was as clear as day after giving up 50 first half points, the yellow-and-blue should have been ahead by more and they just couldn’t figure out what to do in order to head into halftime holding only a one-point lead.

Fouls are a tool and one that can make a real difference in winning or losing a game. In this case they fell to defeat against a team that Nebo called, “a really good opponent.”

Unfortunately, EFES is not a really good opponent.

Shane Larkin and Wade Baldwin – Photo credit: Anadolu EFES


They entered the game with a 10-15 record, they fired their coach, they lost a number of critical pieces in the team that won back-to-back Euroleague titles including Vasilije Micic. Sure, Shane Larkin is still there and can be a handful as well as a number of other familiar faces, but they have just gotten older and are not as effective as they had been in the past.

Until Maccabi comes over.

Rodrigue Beaubois who is turning 36 years old in a couple of weeks always has Maccabi’s number. The minute the Frenchman sees the yellow-and-blue it’s as if a bull has seen the color red. Beeubois knocks down very shot in sight, cuts to the basket as if he is ten years younger and usually plays out off his mind which was the case yet again with 20 points. It doesn’t matter if Beaubois wears an EFES jersey or a Baskonia one which he did beforehand, he is a Maccabi killer of the first order.

Rodrigue Beaubois – Photo credit: Anadolu EFES


Another problem for Maccabi is allowing a player who has very little impact against any other team find a way to dominate and be a massive x-factor against the yellow-and-blue.

In this game it was one Ercan Osmani who is playing in his first Euroleague campaign. The 25 year came into the clash averaging about 2 points and 2 rebounds a game turns into an all-star with 13 points and 7 boards which marked the first game that he hit double digits in points.

If you are a serious contender, that can’t happen under any circumstance.

Ercan Osmani – Photo credit: Euroleague.net


Ercan Osmani can’t be the game changer that sees you lose and yet that’s exactly what happened.

Maccabi goes from one Euroleague team to another who is chomping at the bit and could very well find themselves in the Euroleague next season with a terrific campaign in the EuroCup in one Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Danny Franco’s team has been playing superb basketball and are in their respective continental competition’s quarterfinals. The reds have also already beaten the yellow-and-blue in a game a few weeks ago that took place at the Drive In and saw Hapoel mount a late game comeback to snatch the win from the jaws of defeat and there is no reason to think that this can’t occur once again back at Yad Eliyahu.

Josh Nebo – Photo credit: Euroleague.net


In that game at the Drive In, Maccabi’s defense fell apart at the seams which they can’t allow to happen once again on their home court or else they will be punished against their arch-rivals. But as Nebo said, “We have to move on and get ready for a big game on Sunday in the Israeli league.”

No doubt they have to move on, but they also have to take a good look back at what went wrong in Riga in order to use that to their advantage playing a high octane offense in Hapoel.

One thing that is for sure, it will be yet another great chapter that will be written in an eternal rivalry.

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