Monaco stops Maccabi in Tel Aviv to take 2-1 series lead

May 2, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv fell 83-78 at home to Monaco who grabbed a 2-1 series lead and will have a chance to eliminate the yellow-and-blue from Euroleague Final Four contention on Thursday night. The loss puts Oded Katash’s squad’s backs against the wall in the best-of-five quarterfinal series as his team fell for only the third time at home all season long.

Monaco set the tempo from the get go as Mike James controlled the pace of the game from the opening tip by scoring 18 first half points as Bonzie Colson tried to keep the hosts close. But Jordan Loyd and Elie Okobo added points over the final twenty minutes while James played facilitator to move Sasa Obradovic’s club to within one win of the semifinals slated for Kaunas, Lithuania.

Colson was the team’s main scorer with 17 points, Wade Baldwin added 16 points and Lorenzo Brown scored 12 points in the loss. Jordan Loyd added 15 points, Ellie Okobo scored 12 points, John Brown chipped in with 11 points in the win.

Sasa Obradovic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“A playoff game is always hard to play and there was a lot pressure,” Monaco coach Sasa Obradovic said. “After having been a player and then a coach you understand the mental component of the game. In the first half it was Mike James and in the second half it was Jordan Loyd and Elie Okobo along with Alpha Diallo. It was just one win and we have to now focus on the second game. We did a great job on their set plays and controlling the main players and the result.”

“We knew before the game it was not going to be easy and we would have to play our A game in order to beat Monaco,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash began. “We struggled offensively in the first half and we had some turnovers. We fought back in the second half but every time we had a run they came back although we did a better job on Mike James in the second half. The fans were amazing and I hope that we will do the job on Thursday to make them happy.”

Lorenzo Brown spoke about the loss from his point view, “Tough game on both ends and very aggressive. They wanted it a little bit more. [Thursday we will need] a little of everything and be more aggressive. The fans were amazing in my opinion.”

Monaco celebrates – Photo Credit: Direction de la Communication / Stephane Danna

Elie Okobo also reflected on the game that was, “The keys to the win was our defense and our energy, we got stops when we needed to and I feel like we were solid defensively at the end we had no stupid plays. It’s not easy to win here and we have to stay focused to game 4.”

The Maccabi fans were out in full force over three hours before tipoff as they greeted each player as they drove up to the arran with song and dance. However, when the Monaco bus arrived, those tuned quickly dissipated into jeers as hundreds of supporters made sure to let the visitors exactly how they felt about their arrival. Flares were set off in a variety of colours which stopped the bus dead in its tracks as smoke billowed out from the street.

Finally, instead of driving into the usual parking lot area they decided to pull up as close as they could get to the doors as the players came off the bus at least pretending to be oblivious to the extra-curricular activities around them. With earphones and earbuds locked in and straight faces looking right ahead towards the entry they came off one at a time as the boos got louder and louder until public enemy #1 Mike James descended and the pitch took an even louder turn. Apparently he got the message crystal clear and gave the hosts a taste of their own medicine.

Jordan Loyd started off game three just as he ended game 2 with a triple, but Wade Baldwin came back with a deuce to get the proceedings underway, Donatas Motiejunas drilled a corner 3-ball but back to back buckets by Bonzie Colson and Lorenzo Brown knotted the game up at 6-6 midway through the first quarter. Mike James finally showed up to the series as he went from the inside and outside for a pair while two early fouls sent Brown to the bench, as Loyd went from deep, Ellie Okobo hit a floater but Roman Sorkin responded, however, Sasa Obradovic’s team led 22-16 after 10 minutes of play.

Jordan Loyd and Darrun Hilliard – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Seconds after the players entered the arena, the fans raced towards their gates to make sure and fill up the seats as quickly as possible to give Monaco a rousing welcome when they ascended to the floor for the pre-pregame warmups. Horns blared, trumpets trumpeted and the boos rained down the second the players showed their faces especially of course Mike James. When it came to the pregame warmups confetti rained down on the Monaco players while minutes later Maccabi led by captain John Dibartolomeo entered into the arena with to heroes welcome as the fans cheered for each player one at a time, serenading them at the top of their lungs.

Lorenzo Brown who received the biggest cheer of them all came back on the court to begin the second quarter as he quickly went from the inside and dished to Colson who went from the outside and inside to knot the game up at 24-24 with 7:43 left in the first half. James came right back with a basket inside and the points from way, way downtown, Motiejunas scored a tough turnaround, James took the ball to the hole, Jaron Blossomgame scored in the paint as did Alex Poythress at the other end but another deuce by Motiejunas gave the visitors a 41-32 advantage at halftime.

Mike James – Photo Credit: Euroleague

If anyone was wondering when Mike James would finally show up, we’ll look no further than the first half as #55 went 3/6 from both inside and outside of the arc plus a trio of free throws to drop 18 points in a cool 15 minutes. The one time Hapoel Galil Elyon guard has travelled throughout Europe having starred in many of locales including CSKA Moscow and Milano while also having made stops with the Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans. However, when he signed with Monaco that not only put the club on the basketball map but it also gave James the chance to have a team of his own and one that he would be the star of the show.

Darrun Hilliard who had wanted to be one of the stars of the show when he joined Maccabi came out strong with a 4-point play to get the third quarter going, he then fed Josh Nebo for an alley-oop, Yakuba Ouatarra answered while James dialled up long distance, Hilliard scored off the wing, but Loyd came back with another triple to keep Monaco in front 49-44 midway through the frame. Loyd put in a floater, Colson scored a 3-point play, Loyd put in another bucket, Martin checked in with a 3-point play, Poythress put in a deuce and John Dibartolomeo drilled home a 3-pointer to head into the final frame down by just 3-points, 60-57.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Euroleague

The tension started to build as the matchup headed into the fourth quarter as neither Wade Baldwin or Lorenzo Brown had made their mark on the game. However, it was the Euroleague rookie Bonzie Colson who had been keeping Maccabi competitive with 15 points over the first three periods while also scoring the opening points of the fourth quarter but Okobo, Alpha Diallo and Donta Hall all scored from the line to bump up the lead to 68-59 with 7:12 remaining in regulation time.

Dibartolomeo went from deep, Brown added a pair, Okobo came back with a layup off a steal, Baldwin hit a midrange, Brown scored off a layup, Alpha Diallo came back with points as did John Brown, Dibartolomeo came back with a triple but Brown once again added points, Baldwin hit a corner 3-pointer but Loyd knocked down a pair of free throws to wrap up the win and silence the Maccabi faithful.

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