Quarters: Maccabi Tel Aviv falls to Barcelona – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Feb 1, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Tuesday night, Maccabi Tel Aviv (9th place, 11-11) suffered a 78-83 loss to Barcelona (3rd place, 14-8) at Palau Blaugrana – yet another road defeat for the Yellow & Blue as their away record now standing at 2-10. Cory Higgins (15 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block), Rokas Jokubaitis (14 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist), Nikola Mirotić (11 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block) and Jan Vesely (10 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal) led the scoring for the hosts, while Jalen Adams (20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists), Wade Baldwin IV (15 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block), Jarell Martin (11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) and Darrun Hilliard (11 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist) hit the scoreboard hard for the visitors.

Here are a few of my reflections from the round 21 clash.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

The Good: The backcourt’s third quarter
At points in the first half, it looked like it was going to be a long night for Maccabi – with three and a half minutes left in the half, Barça went up 39-28 courtesy of a 3-point play from Tomas Satoransky (9 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists). However, a resilient mini fightback at the end of the half, including through 3s to Adams and then Hilliard at the buzzer, helped Maccabi to claw back to 37-41 at half time.

The Maccabi players then came out of the locker room a different team looking hungrier than their opponents, scoring the first 7 points of the quarter through a 3-pointer from Martin and field goals to Bonzie Colson (7 points, 1 rebound and 3 steals) and Roman Sorkin (7 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block).

Jalen Adams – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

In the third quarter alone, Baldwin scored 11 points and had 4 assists, while Adams scored 4 points and had 1 assist. In fact, Adams’s 2 made free-throws with 37 seconds left in the frame gave Maccabi a commanding 67-57 lead over the more-fancied Barcelona.

“We can compete with anybody in this league,” Adams, who also had an equal game-high performance index rating of 20, said of the positives from the game. “We know that Barcelona is one of the top teams in this league. We were in that game all the way through, so we’ve just got to build on that and keep our confidence high.”

Barça finished the quarter strongly through a 3 from Mike Tobey (5 points and 3 rebounds) and free-throws to Jokubaitis, reducing Maccabi’s lead to 5 points at the final break. While Maccabi did end up winning the quarter 30-21, it wasn’t enough to get the W.

Nikola Mirotic – Photo Credit: Barcelona Basket

The Bad: The bigs
Barcelona proved much too strong for Maccabi under the basket last night, leading the way under the basket with 37 total rebounds to 30. It’s more troubling for Maccabi when you look at the bigs: for Barça, Mirotić, Vesely, Tobey and Sertac Sanli (3 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist) combined for 29 points and 20 rebounds in 79 minutes; for Maccabi, Josh Nebo (1 point and 3 rebounds), Suleiman Braimoh (4 points and 1 rebound), Sorkin and Martin combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds in 82 minutes.

Of course, one way of explaining this is the EuroLeague experience – comparing the two quartet’s, Barça’s combined have accumulated 695 EuroLeague games (Tobey with the least of the four with 72 games) compared to Maccabi’s 115 (Nebo with the most out of the four with 50 games).

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Of experience and the significance, Katash said: “I think that Barcelona is real quality team with quality that’s almost endless – they have 12 players with a lot of experience.”

Maccabi has improved throughout the season, however as we get to the pointy end of the season, unfortunately they can only add actual game experience one game at a time. With Alex Poythress out injured, the other bigs will need to continue to improve if Maccabi is going to make a push for the playoffs.

Rokas Jokubaitis – Photo Credit: Barcelona Basket

The Ugly: Last-quarter meltdown
Three and a half minutes into the last quarter, Martin scored a basket to put Maccabi up 74-68, with Yellow & Blue fans hopeful of the team capturing a scarce road victory. What followed was a span of nearly seven minutes during which Maccabi didn’t score and Barça went on a 14-0 run courtesy of multiple baskets to Vesely, Mirotić and Higgins, effectively shutting down Maccabi’s hopes of coming away with a win.

“I don’t know, the fourth quarter, that was unbelievable,” a clearly frustrated Katash said to the cameras immediately after the conclusion of the game. “I mean, we put in the right amount of effort, but that’s tough to win like that. That’s really tough, really tough to win like that.”

Tomas Satoransky – Photo Credit: Barcelona Basket

Katash clarified his frustration in the press conference: “We fought also in the fourth quarter, but I think after 8-9 minutes it was like 8-2 in fouls and it’s tough to win like that. I’m proud of my guys, but that was tough. Obviously they have more experience than us, but that shouldn’t be the way. It’s tough to win here. We have to give them the credit – they did exactly what they’re supposed to do – but we should get some more help or respect.”

Captain John DiBartolomeo acknowledged that the team needs to finish games better: “We struggled in that fourth quarter. I think that’s something that we need to learn, how to close games out on the road in a tough environment in close games. It’s a challenge for us, but that’s the hump we need to get over to be the team we want to be.”

Xabi Lopez-Arostegui – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Up Next: Valencia
Maccabi now takes the short trip to Valencia (8th place, 12-10) to complete the double week tomorrow night (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST). Valencia will be coming in confident after an 82-73 home win last night against Bayern Munich (14th place, 9-13) and a winning streak of 5 games. While they are sitting ahead of Maccabi by one win, if they are tied at the end of the season, they need to win and make up for 16 points by which they lost to Maccabi earlier in the season.

“The EuroLeague this year really is special – everything is so tight and every win can make a big difference,” Katash said of how close the standings are this season. “It’s kind of cliché, but you have to look at the next game – focus on the next game… We will fight as long as we have the chance to do it, starting from Thursday – it’s a big one for us.”

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