No Complacency: Maccabi Tel Aviv on the cusp on playoff berth as Katash readies troops for Valencia

Mar 27, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to extend their winning streak when they tip-off against Valencia on Wednesday evening (21:30) at their home away from home in Belgrade as they look to pick up their 6th continental victory in a row and their 15th overall across all competitions. After last week’s win at Bayern Munich, the yellow-and-blue not only clinched a spot in the Play In Tournament and moved into 7th place. In fact, Oded Katash’s team is just one win behind both Olympiacos and Fenerbahce who are in 5th and 6th places respectively which are automatic spots in the quarterfinal round.

Valencia come into the game in 12th place with a 14-17 record and are one of 6 teams battling it out for 10th place, the last Play In slot. However, Alex Mumbru’s squad have dropped five of their last six contests and desperately need a win to keep their postseason hope alive.

Oded Katash – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We have to be ready for a very aggressive game,” Katash warned. “They are very tough and have good defenders. It will be a game of two styles, we want to run and play at a high pace and they are exactly the opposite. First of all, you have to control the ball, control the rebound, because when you play against a team with long possessions this is critical.”

Mumbru knows that his team is in for a difficult matchup, “We play against a team that has a high ratio of home wins despite playing most of the season with no fans in the stands, they only have four losses. They are playing great basketball lately, they have 14 straight wins in all competitions. We know it will be a difficult game in which we have to double-down inside the paint. Numbers says they are the best rebounding team, but you can also see it when they play. We will have to control the boards and in offense try to find some cracks on their defense, of which they do not have many.”

Alex Mumbru – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

In the first matchup between the two clubs, Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Valencia 75-66 in Spain. Valencia was the first opponent that Maccabi met after the outbreak of the war, in a game in which the home team was switched and was held on October 18. “Usually we look at the first game and can learn something, but in the mental state that we played in that game there isn’t much to take away. Today we are in a different situation and in a different place,” Katash stated.

Nate Reuvers, who is in his first season in the Euroleague looked back at that first encounter, “It will be a difficult game. Earlier this season we beat them, but many things happened since then. We are still in the thick of the fight and we have three games remaining, so we have to be ready to do whatever is necessary to have a chance to win. We will have to put in all our passion and our fighting capability to balance our lack of size.”

Antonius Cleveland – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Both Antonius Cleveland and Bonzie Colson know that the keys to victory will be the defensive side of the game, “The keys are to defend,” Cleveland said. “Stick to the scouting report figure out what guys like to do and take that away. Play our game, continue to be good defensively and come out ready to play. Every team besides ASVEL have some playoff hopes and we know it’s going to be tough, every Euroleague game is tough and we got to come out ready to play from the beginning of the game and put ourselves in a good position to get the win.”

Colson added, “It’s going to be another challenge for us playing Valencia who are a very talented group, guard heavy play on their end. They have guys that can post up and they have big men which post up a lot. I’m very excited about it. We just have to trust the system and try to be consistent on both sides of the floor as possible and it’s that time when teams click and we just got to continue to click, play well, stay humble and hungry and try to win every game.”

Bonzie Colson – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

The bottom line is that Maccabi will need to maintain the momentum they have garnered over the past month of games and see how far they can ride that wave despite having to deal with the war that created issues for the club to compete at the best of their abilities.

“We are doing what the war forced upon us – to concentrate day-to-day. There were periods of time when we could not plan more than two or three days ahead and this is what we have to do now as well with how tight the Euroleague is and with the competition for the Play-In and Playoffs. The players understand the situation. There will be no complacency.”

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