Taking nothing for granted: Maccabi Tel Aviv faces ALBA Berlin in a must-win game to stay over .500

Nov 30, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to get back into the win column when they face last place ALBA Berlin on Thursday (21:05) at their home away from home in Belgrade, Serbia. After a pair of losses to Spaniard clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona, the yellow-and-blue will try and change their luck against the German team who is sitting in the Euroleague’s basement with a lone win and a 1-9 record on the season.

Head coach Oded Katash knows that his team will need to get not only physically ready for the clash but mentally prepared as well, “Physically we need to recover because this game wasn’t easy and the guys played a lot of minutes. Mentally we went through a lot of situations both this year and last. We will react and I trust the guys as they will recover from that. We have a very important game in 48 hours.”

Oded Katash – Photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

“ALBA is a team that plays with a system and gave hard time to multiple teams,” Katash continued. “We have to be ready to play, there are no easy games in the EuroLeague. The fact that we are considered as favorites because of the records might be a disadvantage if we are not concentrated. So we face this game with a lot of respect.”

Josh Nebo, who had a strong performance against Real Madrid in a losing effort, reflected on the game that was while also looking ahead to the ALBA Berlin clash coming up, “It wasn’t our best game today, we didn’t come out with the right effort defensively and we had no answers. We have to have a short memory and we have another game in 48 hours and get ready for ALBA Berlin. It’s an important game for us as we don’t want to lose 3 in a row. We have to forget this game and get focussed for the next one.”

Josh Nebo and Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Djordje Kostic and Dragan Tesic

Lorenzo Brown who has had his ups and downs this season also gave his thoughts on the where he sees Maccabi’s issues and how to turn things around in a positive way, “It came down to us playing harder at the end. I guess we didn’t push ourselves enough and it happens. We are in a funk right now, but next game is always important. We have to keep our eye on the next game and push each other, practice every single day and hold each other accountable, which we do for our mistakes and push each other for the positive things we do.”
Jake Cohen who is one of the veteran leaders on the team understands that the fact that Maccabi has another game this week gives them a perfect opportunity to move their record back over .500.

“We need to play much better basketball than what we did the other night. That’s a great opportunity to bounce back. ALBA Berlin has some talent and they know how to play so it’s not going to be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination.”

Antonius Cleveland – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Antonius Cleveland isn’t taking anything for granted heading into the game against ALBA, “We got a chance to bounce back, we don’t have to wait a week to play. This league is tough, we have to come prepared. We can’t take anything for granted.”

On the topic of guards, Wade Baldwin, who recently returned to action has yet to make a massive impact in a way that can help the yellow-and-blue and in fact, picked up a pair of technicals and was ejected against Barcelona is still searching to find his stride.

Katash knows what Baldwin can do for his team and is aware that getting him back on track may take some time, “We know Wade and he is emotional and competitive, he knows that and he knows when he has to handle himself. We like his energy and his emotions and that helps us, but he also knows when it crosses the line. I believe in the team and its character. This is challenge right now as to how we will react in 48 hours. Wade came into this season after a good summer and the back injury really set him back but Wade is a leader and very important for us. We trust him and we all will help him.”

Wade Baldwin – Photo credit: Djordje Kostic and Dragan Tesic

The biggest challenge for Katash and Maccabi is still trying to keep focus on the task at hand which is challenging when the team plays in an empty arena in Belgrade, “There was a lack of focus of course but this entire season we all know that this is going to be a challenge. We will need to come out of this stronger. We see what the soldiers and the families in Israel are going through, so we have nothing to complain about. We are together and that is our challenge. Many people think that the ALBA game will be easy, but of you have seen them play you know that it won’t be easy for us to beat them in 48 hours if we are not focussed.”

“In terms of basketball, not playing at home is difficult. We had the best home record last season and the fans are a big part of that so without them things are different as we have to find our inner energy and it’s not always there. It’s tough. The Euroleague is a tough competition and without a home court advantage it’s almost an impossible mission, but that is the challenge. For the 1.5 years that I have been here we have had challenges and we have been able to stand up to them.”

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