Thursday night, Maccabi Tel Aviv (13-12, equal 8th place) returned to the win column with a 90-82 victory at home over FC Bayern Munich (9-16, 15th place) on the back of a 29-15 fourth quarter. Lorenzo Brown (27 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals), Wade Baldwin IV (15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists) and Bonzie Colson (15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals) were in double figures for the Yellow & Blue, while Corey Walden (19 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists), Andreas Obst (14 points, 4 rebounds, one assist and one steal) and Niels Giffey (11 points and 5 rebounds) for the Bavarians.
Here are a few of my reflections from the round 25 clash.
The Good: The never-say-die fighting spirit
With Bayern leading 53-42 with seven minutes left in the third quarter (more on that in the ugly below) and Maccabi not playing well, the fans in Tel Aviv could have been forgiven for thinking that it was not going to be their night. A minute and a half later, after Maccabi had scored 6 straight points courtesy of back-to-back 3s from Baldwin, there was a play which defined the fighting spirit of this team, no matter what the scoreline.
Coming out of a time out called by Bayern coach Andrea Trinchieri, the visitors brought the ball back up the court. Giffey looked to oass the ball out to an open Cassius Winston (10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists), but the pass was deflected by Brown. The ball then dropped to the floor. The battle for the ball was initially only between Giffey and Josh Nebo (2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal), but Colson was quick to run over to help. While Giffey beat out Nebo, Colson dived to the ground and grabbed the ball as well, resulting in a jump ball, which Colson won.
Although Maccabi didn’t score on the possession, it was a significant moment in the game, as it totally frustrated one of the intentions of Trinchieri’s time out by ensuring that Bayern couldn’t easily swing the momentum back there way and ensuring that the home crowd maintained its intensity.
“I’m very happy that we found a way to turn that game over and to get the W,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said after the game.
“It definitely feels good, it was a team effort,” Colson said. “We came out a bit flat and then turned it up afterwards. We have the best fans in the EuroLeague – they provide us with energy and we feed off of it. I love the fans and we need them to come every game.”
Katash also added: “I don’t give myself credit for it – it’s the players in the end who responded. It’s not the first time that we’ve responded when we’re down, but we can’t continue doing this – we need to play this way from the start of the game.”
“For three quarters we find our way and then in one quarter we give a strong one and then they can’t stop us in the quarter,” Baldwin agreed. “We need to be able to do that for more than one quarter. Hopefully in June this will happen and it will all click.”
The Bad: Lack of Focus
With 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter and Maccabi up 18-15, Walden had the ball close to halfcourt. Maccabi was only sitting on 2 fouls and the bench was shouting to the players to use a foul to prevent Walden from making a play. Roman Sorkin (8points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) gave Walden plenty of space and seemed to focus on preventing from getting into scoring range. He drove to the basket, and then dished the ball outside to Obst for a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left on the clock, which leveled up the ledger at quarter time.
“In the first 27 minutes, we were not aggressive enough and we didn’t use our fouls smart enough,” Katash alluded to this lack of focus post-game.” The way I can describe it is that we are not consistent in what we do. We can’t be worried about missing shots that we had in the first half, but we can control using fouls, one-on-one defense, boxing out – and those are the things we have to be consistent with – we’ve got to do the step-up on those things to be able to win in the future.”
This is not the first time that this has happened to Maccabi – just last week in the State Cup Final loss to Hapoel Jerusalem, the same thing happened when they gave Speedy Smith all the time in the world to get off a shot at the end of the first half (which he missed) while Maccabi was sitting on 3 team fouls.
“Sometimes we’re a little naïve or lacking experience at that level,” Katash continued. “There are a lot of players for whom its their first year in the EuroLeague. To know how to win games – especially important ones like this – you need a lot of experience. Part of that experience is knowing how to use fouls, part of that experience is to deal with other teams’ scoring runs of certain teams. There we need to improve.”
Needless to say, Maccabi will need to find a way to improve and be more consistent as they head into the home stretch of the regular season, likely needing to win six of the next nine games to make the playoffs.
The Ugly: Offensive Rebounds
In the first fixture between these two teams this season, Bayern had 14 offensive rebounds for a total of 34 board, compared to Maccabi’s total of 24. Although pre-game Katash indicated that he thought that his bigs would have an edge, it was again a poor night under the basket for the Yellow & Blue, as the visitors recorded 45 rebounds (19 offensive, 26 defensive) compared to the hosts’ 33 rebounds (8 offensive, 25 defensive). This presented the Germans with multiple second chances (and often third chances) to score on their possessions and there were audible groans from the crowd.
There were two moments which depicted how ugly this was last night. The first was with a little over four minutes left in the first half. Nick Weiler-Babb (7 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists) missed a shot from beyond the arc. A number of players went up for the rebound and it was Isaac Bonga (1 point, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 turnover) who tapped the ball back to Walden, who then passed it back to Bonga. Bonga also missed a shot for 3, however it was then Freddie Gillespie (6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists) who got the rebound (Bayern’s 9th offensive rebound for the first half). He then passed it back to an open Walden, who then made the 3, giving Bayern a 37-28 lead. A defeated-looking Katash then called a time out to tell his team: “Make sure we box out! On defense – box everyone! We fight!”
The second was just under 3 minutes into the second half. Similar to that first half incident, Obst took a shot from beyond the arc. The ball hit the rim and went back to arc, straight into Winston’s hands. Winston passed the ball to Obst, who then returned it to Winston, who also missed a shot from 3-point range. Bonga then got the rebound, gave it to an open Obst, who scored the basket, giving Bayern a 53-42 lead.
“Part of the offensive rebounds were long rebounds, which is not dependent on the way we rebound – you need a bit of luck – but many of their 19 offensive rebounds, we could’ve prevented maybe six or seven, which could be the difference between a win and a loss. They beat us in the rebounds by 12 more than us. To win in that statistic, you need to do something special in the end. We did that, we found the way, but it’s something that we have to improve.”
“We did not box out and there were far range rebounds,” Sorkin said. “I think in the second half we got back to ourselves. We need every game for the playoffs and to show up better moving forward. We need to play well from the first half to play hard and good. We need to upgrade that.”
Up Next: Monaco Away
With the FIBA world cup qualifiers continuing this weekend, there are no Israeli league games (there are still group games remaining, notwithstanding that Israel cannot qualify for the tournament), with round 18 of the Winner League commencing on March 3rd. With no Maccabi players in the Israeli squad for the Blue and Whiles’ games against Finland in Tel Aviv today (14:30 IST / 7:30 EST) and against Slovenia in Koper on Sunday (19:00 IST / 12:00 EST), this will give players and coaches plenty of time to prepare for next week’s difficult away clash in Monaco (15-9, equal 4th place) on Thursday night (22:00 IST / 15:00 EST).