Scottie awaits: Maccabi heads into must win Turkish Euroleague Double week

Mar 8, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv (13-13, 10th place) hosts Fenerbahçe (16-9, 4th place) Wednesday (19:30 IST / 12:30 EST) in another must-win EuroLeague clash at Yad Eliyahu. While it promises to be an exciting game, the two teams will be looking at the game from very different perspectives: while Maccabi will be wanting to prove to their fans and themselves that their season is still alive after a crushing 67-86 to AS Monaco last Thursday night, which will have to be done without Jalen Adams, who looks set to miss the rest of the season injured, Fener comes into the game riding a three-game winning streak and with an eye on tightening its hold on a top-four finish.

“They not only have a high-quality roster, but also their depth both in their front court and in their backcourt,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said of his opponents ahead of the game. “From our perspective, you look at their roster with jealousy, it really doesn’t end. They have a lot of experience, a lot of quality. It’s not only about stopping their guards: their inside players know how to play and they have good forwards. They are in excellent shape and it won’t be simple for us.”

Johnathan Motley – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Fener has a lot of new faces this season who have made an impact, including Johnathan Motley, who gave an interview to The Sports Rabbi site last night and is thriving in his rookie EuroLeague season.

“I think that’s what makes our team very good – we’re close off the court and we have good chemistry,” Motley said of what has helped them be such a strong team this season.

The players to wear the yellow and navy blue for the first time at Yad Eliyahu include not only EuroLeague veteran Nick Calathes and former Maccabi star Scottie Wilbekin, but also Tyler Dorsey, another former Maccabi player, who is set to debut for Fener tomorrow night.

John Dibartolomeo- Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“It will be an extremely difficult game,” Maccabi captain John DiBartolomeo predicted. “They are a talented team and they have been playing great lately. How Dorsey fits there we will find out soon, but they have more firepower like with Wilbekin. They have many weapons with lots of talent, but we play at home, in front of our crowd.”

While the Tel Aviv crowd is recognized around the league as giving Maccabi a proverbial 6th man at their home games, Fener seem fearless of the challenge ahead of them tonight.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Euroleague

“He [Wilbekin] has also said some good things about Maccabi, one of the craziest places to play, one of the toughest environments,” Motley said. “I think they have one of the best home records this year. We’re excited, we’re kind of comparing this place to a Serbia/Partizan type of fans and environment in just how much they support their team and it’s tough to play here. I like environments like that and I think I thrive in these types of environments with the energy of the fans.”

It’s been nearly 5 months since these two teams last faced each other, when Fener beat Maccabi convincingly 86-71 in a round 2, in a game which the Turkish side never looked like losing. Josh Nebo, who has been underwhelming in recent weeks, was Maccabi’s best player, finishing with 12 points and 9 rebounds in just under 22 minutes. On the other side, Fener had contributions across the board, including from Calathes (a near triple-double, with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists), Motley (15 points and 6 rebounds) and Marko Guduric (23 points and 6 rebounds). Overall, Fener won the rebound count in the game, which is something that Maccabi will need to win tonight.

Wade Baldwin and Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“In the second set of games against teams you always look at the first game between the teams, which was not as good from our point of view, but it only makes us miss Alex more – we are missing his quality, his experience and his defense,” Katash said. “It’s not only [Tonye] Jekiri, but it’s Motley and it’s [Devin] Booker. They have a large variety of tools. They’re deeper – it’s going to be very challenging in a double-week.”

For Maccabi, the backend of the double-week is a trip to Turkey for a clash on Friday against Anadolu Efes. The players are aware of what’s ahead.

“It’s really big for us and carry us the momentum in the double week, we know how important these games are against the Turkish teams,” Maccabi forward Jarell Martin said after Maccabi’s Israeli league win over Hapoel Galil/Elyon earlier this week, 104-73. “We started off playing hard from the jump. We started off slow and came out today to play strong which we wanted to do.”

Jarell Martin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

This is the same approach that Maccabi knows they need to take tonight, which DeBartolomeo emphasized: “We will have to jump at them early and try to stop all that offensive power they have.”

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