On the right track: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maccabi Tel Aviv fell 69-68 to a tough Olympiacos team at Yad Eliyahu after Norris Cole missed a last gasp layup for the win. In a fairly even game throughout, the Yellow & Blue received a fine display by Cole who scored 22 points and added 7 rebounds while Pierre Jackson added 14 points of his own. Jonah Bolden who played close to 23 minutes came away withe his best game so far for Maccabi scoring 7 points while grabbing 6 boards. Georgios Printezis led Olympiacos with 21 points as Nikola Milutinov added 8 points and 8 rebounds while Kostas Papanikolau dropped 7 points and grabbed 9 boards in the victory.

Dov Halickman Photography

1) Olympiacos is a top level Euroleague club, plain and simple. They have been playing together for some time and were more of an experienced team than Maccabi. As Coach Neven Spahija said, “They are more of a team than us, right now.” The key words here are right now. It’s certainly possible that when they meet again in January, Maccabi will be more of a team (of course all star Vassilis Spanoulis will probably be back for the Greek team). Spahija also mentioned how he had seen certain things in the preseason tournament from Olympiacos that showed how long they had been playing together. The Yellow & Blue is jelling and are getting to know one another. But Spahija warned that it will take time. He wasn’t thrilled with the assist count last night of only 9 and wasn’t pleased about the lack of ball movement. However, that’s what is going to happen when you play a very well oiled machine. Obviously when you build a brand new team it’s going to take time for the players to get to understand each other’s nuances and movements on the court. But one thing is for sure, Maccabi is on the right track.

2) Jonah Bolden was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers and is preparing for the NBA playing with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He is honing his trade and is also fortunately working with a coach who is a modern day thinker and one that is willing to take the hits now to get the best out Bolden as the season continues on. “This was the best Jonah Bolden game. If you want to develop a player you have to give him time even if he is stuck some time. I think he is going to be a huge part, we just need time. But games like this just make us better,” Spahija said. I also asked Bolden how he felt about earning the coach’s confidence, “It felt good and coach always had belief in me, it’s more of a matter of me just proving it. I think I did a little bit of that, but I still have a way to go.“ The Australian big man will get better and better the more minutes he plays and he will be a true asset on the hardwood for Maccabi. And again, the best part is that Spahija knows this and is giving Bolden the chance to make those mistakes now, so that when the chips are on the table the dividends will be paid out for that patience. As they say, patience is a virtue.

3) With three Euroleague games under their belts, Maccabi Tel Aviv has continued to move along, learning new things, gaining Euroleague experience, mentality and showing character. Let’s start with John Dibartolomeo as he talked about the differences he has seen, “Size and speed is a noticeable difference especially when you play a team like Olympiacos.” Deshaun Thomas added, “We got good character on this team.” DeAndre Kane chimed in, “Great game great effort. We came up short and have a lot of room to improve, but our mentality is always next. Finally Bolden put it best as to what the team will take out of the game, “You learn a lot against any great team that you lose to. You will always come out with pros and cons and stuff to work on.” Now doesn’t this sound like a team you want to be associated with?

Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Red Star in Belgrade on Thursday evening and will look to avenge a 83-58 loss last season in Serbia. Sure, it’s a totally different team and the game will be played at the Kombank Belgrade Arena the site of the 2018 Euroleague Final Four, but the fans will be the same; some of the best in the world. Deshaun Thomas commented on the environment that will be waiting for the Yellow & Blue, “I played a lot there. The crowd is loud and crazy, but the coach will prepare us and we will play our style and complete like always.” John Dibartolomeo added, “I’ve heard a lot about and that it’s an amazing atmosphere. Ours is amazing, so I can’t imagine that it’s so much better but we will see.” Coach Spahija also chimed in, “Everybody can win against everybody and we will come there ready.” Ready for battle and ready as always. That is what Spahija Basketball is all about and if you’re a Maccabi fan you’ve got to love it.


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