Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Partizan Belgrade 90-81 in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night to find itself alone in 8th place in the standings after 18 rounds with 10 wins and 8 losses.
Lorenzo Brown (21 points, 2 rebounds and 5 assists), Bonzie Colson (19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block), Jarell Martin (13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block) and Josh Nebo (10 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block) led the scoring for the hosts, while Kevin Punter (22 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal), Dante Exum (17 points and 3 rebounds), Zach Leday (15 points, 9 rebounds and 1 block) and Aleksa Avramovic (15 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists) scored most of the visitors’ points.
Here are a few of my reflections from the round 18 clash.
The Good: Strong start
After going down to Partizan 96-88 in their round 8 clash on November 18, Maccabi needed to win by at least 9 points in order to beat Partizan in a potential tie-breaking scenario at the end of the regular season. A good start would help in that mission and that is exactly what coach Oded Katash’s squad delivered. Maccabi shot out to a 12-0 start in the first four minutes of the game, leading 24-11 at the end of the first quarter behind some strong.
“Something we have struggled with is starting well, but today we brought great energy and it was great to see,” Jake Cohen (4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists) said after the game. “If we can start off every game 12-0, it will be great.”
Although Partizan did fight back and never let Maccabi get out to a lead of more than 14 points (Maccabi had an 18-4 lead after six minutes), they were never able to seriously challenge the home team.
As in most games of late, Colson, Brown, Martin and Nebo were all instrumental in the first frame for the yellow and blue, with Colson scoring 10 points (on 2/2 from beyond the arc) and the other three scoring 4 points each. The team also collectively caused 3 turnovers (causing a total of 13 for the game).
“Great win for us,” Katash said after the game. “I really liked the way we played for 40 minutes. We were concentrating, consistent. We started the game really well. We came with a clear gameplan, and we stayed there, even though they had their small runs during the game.”
The Bad: Three-point shooting
While Maccabi’s 3-point shooting was not as bad as it was against Real Madrid in Spain on Friday night (where Maccabi shot 6/31 – under 20% – after missing their first 12 shots), last night Maccabi shot 25.9% at 7/27 from downtown. Credit needs to be given to Martin (2/3 from 3), Colson (2/5 from 3) and Adams (5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block – and 1/3 from 3), who all get passes for their shooting from beyond the arc. However, the rest of the team went a measly 2 of 16 – including 0 of 7 for Wade Baldwin IV (8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists).
“We started the game very well and we stayed there. With a better or more solid shooting percentage, we would’ve had a larger lead. That’s the one thing that I was able to say to the players at halftime, that we played the right way and that they should continue to do this, not to worry if they are missing shots – it doesn’t matter if it’s Wade [Baldwin] or other players – they need to continue to play the right way.”
In the modern game, this isn’t up to par for a team vying for a playoff spot – and it definitely isn’t good enough for a team to go all the way in the EuroLeague.
The Ugly: Yam Madar
While he’s not a Maccabi player, plenty of the home crowd would have been excited to see Yam Madar play live at the highest level of European competition. They would’ve been disappointed with his performance and his opportunities: with 6 minutes and 56 seconds to go in the first quarter, Partizan coach Željko Obradović took Madar off the court with nothing else on his stat-line (0/1 from 2 and 0/1 from 3) – and after that, he never returned.
“Coach’s decision,” was Obradović’s blunt response when asked why three of his starters – Madar, former Maccabi player James Nunnally (2 points in 5 minutes and 40 seconds) and Alen Smailagic (1 rebound in 4 minutes and 22 seconds) – were on the bench for most of the game. The question deserved more than Obradović’s evasive response: not only did the three combine for 23 points in Partizan’s win over Maccabi earlier in the season, but both Nunnally (as a Maccabi player last season) and Madar (from his time with the Israeli national team) are more familiar with the yellow and blue’s Israeli players than the other players on their team.
“Every player should have an opportunity in every practice and every game to run and improve,” Obradović said when pressed on Madar’s benching. “He [Madar] played a lot of very good games this season. I hope that he will continue to be on the level that it’s necessary to be at as a player in the EuroLeague.”
“Of course I’m not going to criticize Željko [Obradović],” Katash commented when asked about Madar’s playing time in the game. “When you play in the EuroLeague, there’s an expanded roster. Sometimes the coach goes in different directions in accordance with the gameplan. Yam Madar has significantly improved. I really enjoy watching him. He has become a legitimate EuroLeague guard and he has a crazy upside. The right way [for him] is to continue to work and to be focused. I’m sure that the sky is the limit for him.”
Unfortunately, it looks like the only chance Israeli fans will get to see Madar play meaningful minutes on home soil in the foreseeable future will be when he is dressing for national team duties.
Up Next: Away at PAO to end the double week
Maccabi completes the double week tomorrow night (21:00 IST; 14:00 EST) in Greece against a struggling Panathinaikos, who come into the game in 16th place with a record of 6 wins and 8 losses after a 88-94 overtime loss to Fenerbahçe. However, the Maccabi players and coaches are not going to come into the game underestimating their opponents.
“It’s true that they have an extra day to prepare for the game, sometimes that’s how it is in a EuroLeague double week,” Katash said of the game tomorrow night. “It’s true that in terms of their results recently – it’s similar to the situation in which we played against ALBA – you’re playing better than the recent results show. To think that it will be an easy game because of the results would be a mistake for us. It’s not easy to play in OAKA [Arena, Panathinaikos’s home stadium] – no matter what the situation – and we don’t have a lot of time to prepare.”
“PAO is dangerous and we know a lot of their weapons well,” Cohen said. “We will need to come focused. Every game is big. It’s up to us to be ready.”