Stepping up, Boos for Zoos, Derby & More: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Macabi Tel Aviv Euroleague Round 20

Jan 20, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv returned back to their winning way at home on Thursday night with an 87-74 victory over ALBA Berlin. Maccabi moved back into 8th spot after the victory with 11 wins and 9 losses, however, both Anadolu Efes and Red Star can move ahead of the yellow and blue with victories on Friday in their respective games against Bayern Munich at home and Zalgiris Kaunas away.

Wade Baldwin IV (33 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal) and Bonzie Colson (11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals) led the scoring for the hosts, while and Jaleen Smith (12 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists) and Gabriele Procida (12 points, 1 rebound and 2 steals) were in double figures for the visitors.
Here are a few of my reflections from the round 20 clash.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

The Good: Players stepping up
The big story from the game was the injury to Maccabi’s star, Lorenzo Brown, who limped off with an ankle injury less than 5 minutes into the game without recording any points or assists. The seriousness of the injury will be assessed by Maccabi’s medical staff over the weekend, but it gave the opportunity for others to step up when needed.
“We were without two important guards, Jalen [Adams, who was ill and did not dress] and Lorenzo very quickly in the game,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said after the game. “I’m happy about the players who came in and stepped up.”

Baldwin’s 33 points was a personal EuroLeague record, going 8/13 (61.5%) from 2 and 4/8 (50%) from 3, with a performance index rating of 35.

“I felt 100% super happy my first 3-point attempt went in,” Baldwin said. “I did a lot of preparation towards this game. I’m trying to get my touch back. Seeing that first shot go in, it helped me a lot. Fitting in to a team that is grooving, Zo [Lorenzo Brown] dominated the month. I try to fit in where I can and get my role back. My team gave me confidence and the coaches also. I am very happy.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Post-game, Katash also indicated that he was very happy with Baldwin’s game: “For a period [earlier in the season] we were without Wade and Lorenzo took on a lot more. Today you saw that when Lorenzo wasn’t there Wade took on more himself and Wade had a huge game.”

Jake Cohen (2 points) also spoke highly of Baldwin after the game: “Wade was incredible. It’s easy to get dragged down when one of your leaders is down. It’s a great sign that Wade picked us up tonight.”

Baldwin wasn’t the only one to be given the opportunity to play more minutes than Maccabi coach Oded Katash had contemplated before the game: Darrun Hilliard (9 points on 3/4 from 3, 3 rebounds and 1 steal), Rafi Menco (8 points on 1/2 from 3, 2 rebounds), Iftah Ziv (6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal) and John DiBartolomeo (5 points on 1/2 from 3, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 steal) played a combined 58:30 during the game.

Iftach Ziv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“I also loved the contributions from John D and when Iftah came off the bench – I’m very happy,” Katash said of the players who came off the bench.

“That’s part of what makes a good team good is having depth,” Cohen said. “Being a pro and not putting your head down. It’s easy to do. That’s the hole you can fall in. We have a lot of great guys in the room. It’s showing now.”

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Katash also spoke about Hilliard, who only played a little of four minutes in the loss to Real Madrid in Maccabi’s first game of 2023 and did not get on the court in last week’s double week: “It’s not a secret that Darun is going through a not so simple period as a player. No one here is guilty in this situation. But he’s here for this – when we needed him, he came off the bench, made huge shots. Overall, I’m very satisfied.”

Another highlight for the home fans was seeing Ziv, DiBartolomeo, Menco, Cohen and Roman Sorkin (3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) on the court together for the 1:25 of the game.

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

The Bad: Inability to put ALBA away
Maccabi had a huge first quarter, leading ALBA 25-10 after Cohen, Colson, Baldwin, Jarell Martin (8 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist), DiBartolomeo, Sorkin and Hilliard all hit the scoreboard. Maccabi had its biggest lead for the game after Hilliard hit a 3 to begin the second quarter, however Maccabi wasn’t able to pull away further from an undermanned ALBA team – who even drew within 7 points with a little under 5 minutes to go.

While it never really looked like Maccabi was going to lose the game, there did appear a lack of energy on the court. This was most-evident in the rebounds. Both teams are statistically at the top of the EuroLeague stats for offensive rebounds this season – Maccabi is averaging 12.6 per game and 35.0 total rebounds per game, whereas ALBA is averaging 12.0 offensive rebounds per game and 36.8 total rebounds per game. While Josh Nebo (2 points and 13 rebounds) led all players on the court in rebounds, Maccabi lost this stat at the end of the night, with 41 total rebounds (16 offensive) to ALBA’s 42 total rebounds (18 offensive).

“It was always be concerning and it was worrying today,” Katash said of the offensive rebound count. “I think that ALBA is one of the top rebounding teams in the EuroLeague, if I recall correctly the third best.

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“Part of it, there were instances of lack of concentration, but you have to give them credit – they do it well. They’re a large team, even when comparing with other EuroLeague teams. [Christ] Koumadje (6 points and 3 rebounds) is on a different level size-wise. When you have [Louise] Olinde (9 points and 4 rebounds) at the three, Jaleen Smith (12 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists) and [Yovel] Zoosman (8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) sometimes at the one and two, it’s significant. They do it well. I agree that we could’ve taken another 4-5 rebounds. We needed to be more focused and to control them. Sometimes when they finish with a high number, it’s because they’re missing shots, so we also need to give credit to our offense.”

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

The Ugly: Booing Zoos
Maccabi has the strongest home record in the EuroLeague this season with 9 wins and 1 loss, with the fans at Yad Eliyahu seen by many as a “sixth player”. Like many sports fans, the Tel Aviv fans can be very emotional, especially when it comes to former players returning while wearing the visitors’ uniform. Last night, it was unfortunate that Israeli player Zoosman – who started his EuroLeague career with Maccabi before signing with ALBA in 2021 – was greeted with boos from the yellow and blue fans.

Katash spoke to this after the game: “I had the privilege of coaching Yovel. He is a special player and person. I’ve coached already for 17 or 18 years. I don’t count, but I’ve coached many players, he is maybe in my top 5. I adore him. I’m happy for his success. I don’t know from where it [the boos] started. I don’t know where it started, maybe there was something there with [James] Nunnally [after the two fought when Maccabi and ALBA played against each other last season]. On a personal level, if you have to choose between one or the other, I will always go with Zoosman.

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“I don’t know where it came from. He definitely doesn’t deserve it and it’s not appropriate for Maccabi’s crowd [to behave that way]. I’m sorry, because I know Yovel, what a great person he is. I know what he’s given to Maccabi. I know that every game he gives his heart. I confess that it also bothers me.”

Up Next: The Derby and Olympiakos away
Maccabi returns to Israeli league action on Sunday night (21:00 IST / 14:00 EST) away to Hapoel Tel Aviv. Derbies always have an additional element due to the rivalry and this game will be no less significant, with the matchup being between 1st and 2nd in the standings.

Darrun Hilliard – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“We will prepare for the game like every other game, with maximum seriousness,” Katash said of the upcoming game. We will be playing against a quality side with a lot of good players. When they play at home, it’s one of the hardest, if not the hardest, game that we could have in the Israeli league. We will come as prepared as possible. We understand the importance of the game, but we as Maccabi Tel Aviv come to play away games, we are used to this and we need to win almost every game – we want to win every game – and we will take the same approach in the next game with a lot of respect for our opponent.”

“Hopefully I’m part of it the derby and we win,” Hilliard said. “Great tradition and atmosphere. I wish my people back home can see this type of atmosphere. You know, the Drive In Arena will be crazy on Sunday, so I can’t wait.”

Maccabi then travels to Greece for EuroLeague action against Olympiacos on Friday night (21:00 IST / 14:00 EST). No away game is easy, however Olympiacos is one of the in form teams of the competition: they currently sit in 4th place in the standings, however they can move into 1st place with a home win over Real Madrid (who currently sit in 1st place).

Wade Baldwin and Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

In the first fixture between these teams this season at Yad Eliyahu back in November, Maccabi won 90-84 on the back of a 27-15 last quarter, led by Baldwin’s 22 points. However, Friday night is a different game and a different location – and with Maccabi’s struggles away from home this season, they will need to lift their game to a different level to be able to get the win next week.

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