The game started good, really good but ended very, very ugly: Maccabi’s loss to Partizan – The Good, Bad, Ugly

Jan 13, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

A strong second half helps Maccabi get a win over second-placed Bologna
Maccabi Tel Aviv ended another double-week with one win and one loss, going down in Round 21 on Friday night to Partizan Belgrade 79-88 at Stark Arena, in what was a EuroLeague record comeback for the Serbs.

Wade Baldwin IV (19 points, 5 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks) and Roman Sorkin (14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) were the sole Yellow & Blue players in double-figures, while Perry Dozier Jr. (23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal), James Nunnally (20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists) and Bruno Caboclo (11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks) starred for the home team.

Here are my thoughts from the game.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo credit: Dragan Stjepanovic

The Good: The First Quarter of an Hour

Let’s break up the first quarter of an hour of the game into three blocks of five minutes:

0:00-5:00 – Maccabi 16-0 Partizan. Maccabi scored the first 16 points of the game, including 7 points to Lorenzo Brown (7 points and 1 assist), 5 points to Josh Nebo (5 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal) and 4 points to Sorkin.

5:00-10:00 – Maccabi 29-11 Partizan. Partizan finally got on the board with 6 points to Dozier Jr., 3 points to Caboclo and 2 points to Alen Smailagic (9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block). However, Maccabi didn’t fall apart yet, with 3 points to each of Baldwin and Tamir Blatt (9 points, 1 rebound and 5 assists), 2 points to each of Sorkin, Antonius Cleveland (5 points and 1 rebound) and John DiBartolomeo (4 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist) and 1 point to Jasiel Rivero (9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block) to increase the lead.

10:00 – 15:00 – Maccabi 42-20. Maccabi continued to increase their lead – including a game-high lead of 37-13 two minutes into the second quarter – through 4 points to Rivero and 3 points to each of Baldwin, Cleveland and James Webb III (7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal). Partizan struggled to stick with their opponents, but 6 more points to Dozier and 3 points to Nunnally helped them stay within reach and launch the comeback.

That’s it – that was the good. After 42-20 in the first 15 minutes, Maccabi lost the next 25 minutes 37-68. Disappointing is an understatement. If there’s another positive which Maccabi can take from the game, it’s that they are ahead against Partizan in the head-to-head this season, after winning the first game in at Yad Eliyahu 96-81 back on October 5.

James Nunnally – Photo credit: Dragan Stjepanovic

The Bad: The Third Quarter
Those familiar with my pieces know that I’m a big proponent of the idea that the third quarter is the “Premiership Quarter” – the idea that the third quarter is the most important quarter to win in a match to increase a team’s chances to win the game.

After Partizan brought the deficit back to 16 points at halftime – still not an easy ledger to overcome – but the third quarter is where they eliminated the deficit altogether, winning the quarter 31-15 to level the scores at 67-67 going into the final 10 minutes of the game.
The home team’s stars shone, with ex-Maccabi Nunnally scoring 10 points, pulling down 3 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists, while Caboclo scored 8 points to go along with 3 blocks.

Partizan also won the final frame by a convincing 21-12, but a lot of the damage was done in the third quarter.

“We knew also at halftime, they had even this year some comebacks here in their gym,” Katash said when asked about the second half. “It’s not easy to turn the game. In the third quarter they were aggressive. On the other side, we lost our flow. It is what it is. We missed some shots. The momentum changed, another lesson for us. We came out really focused and aggressive, but it needs to be for 40 minutes. I feel bad for the players, because they put in a lot of effort.”

“First half was great, but the third quarter is where we let things slip,” Brown said. “They ran one play the entire third quarter. It got them back in the game and into the groove, and that’s where we lost control.”

“We started the game great, we implemented our gameplan,” Sorkin said. “Third quarter we didn’t play defense as needed, let them get back into the game. It’s frustrating, we felt that we were better today, we came in prepared and we have to look forward – it’s a long season.”

Roman Sorkin – Photo credit: Dragan Stjepanovic

The Ugly: Second Half Three Pointers and Rebounding
In the win against Virtus Bologna on Wednesday, Maccabi’s three-point percentage was better than its two-point percentage (13-25 for 52% vs the 43.2% average for the season). Against Partizan, Maccabi continued with their great shooting from beyond the arc, with 8/14 for 57% after 20 minutes, including a buzzer-beater from Blatt on the halftime buzzer.

Similarly, Maccabi came into the double-week as a statistically better rebounding team than Partizan, overall averaging 36.5 vs 31.5 rebounds per game. Things were looking to go on the same trajectory in the game, with Maccabi winning the rebound count 19-17 at halftime.

Both of these stats columns told the story of the second half. Maccabi could not have been worse from three, going 0/16 in the back 20 minutes of the game. On the boards it was also a game of two halves, with Partizan winning the second half by a whopping 27-14, with Maccabi ultimately losing the rebound count 33-44.

“To win here you need to be focused for 40 minutes,” Katash said. “In the second half nothing went right. If I remember right, 0/16 from three in the second half, it’s tough to win like that. I really liked the way we came to play. We were aggressive and focused. I feel bad for the players because that’s a tough loss when you have a big lead like that, but it’s another lesson for us. Looking forward for the rest of the season and that’s it.”

Tamir Blatt – Photo credit: Dragan Stjepanovic

Up Next: Away at Afula, away at Olympiacos
In Europe, Maccabi sits along in 6th place in the standings with 12 wins and 9 losses. The team next faces the 11-10 Olympiacos in Athens on Thursday night (21:45 IST / 14:45 EST). It’s an even more important game for the Yellow & Blue, given that they lost the first game against Olympiacos earlier this season 74-79.

However before returning to European play, the team will first take on Afula in Afula in Israeli league action on Monday night (21:05 IST / 14:05 EST). While Maccabi has only played 3 games in the Israeli league (2-1), Afula has already played 9 games (4-5), which included a big 105-65 win over a very depleted Hapoel Jerusalem team earlier this season and an 82-64 win over the 6-3 Nes Ziona last week. While Maccabi should go in favorites, Afula will be looking for another big-name scalp.

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