Then and Now: Tamir Blatt takes his game to next level to help Maccabi down Jerusalem

Maccabi Tel Aviv is just one game away from punching their ticket to the finals after defeating Hapoel Jerusalem 89-82 in a tough battle on the court for the entire 40 minutes where everyone needed to lay it all out on the line in order for their respective team to be on top when the clock hit 0:00.

For the yellow-and-blue one player rose above all the others with his deft play, his guile and just his all-world know how and that was one Tamir Blatt. The point guard not only perhaps played his finest game for Maccabi, it may have arguably been his best as a professional. And not just his best, but most complete contest when his team needed it most.

With Lorenzo Brown hitting a brick wall yet again in a big Israeli game, it was the Sabra floor general that rose to the top of the heap to take full control of the game when time was ticking down in the fourth quarter and come up huge in so many ways you’d need more than your fingers and toes to count them all.

Whether it was a key 3-pointer, a 3-point play, a clutch assist or drawing yet another foul, Blatt was all over the floor making sure that his side would finish with the W.

Tamir Blatt – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Blatt has had some good game this seasons without a doubt and his play was refined by featuring for two seasons in the Euroleague with ALBA Berlin, but the jump that he has made since playing under Katash at Hapoel Jerusalem to now playing under the same Katash at Maccabi is just night and day.

The two players are absolutely incomparable.


The THEN Blatt was still a player who was developing and continuing to take the next steps in his young career.

The NOW Blatt oozes confidence, has all-star vision on the court and can shoot the lights out.

Tamir Blatt – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Blatt not only did all of the above, but he also played 30 minutes which is roughly 10 minutes more than his Israeli League average in a game against a very tough and physical Jerusalem. In fact, Blatt’s playoff performance thus far in the Nes Ziona series was nothing to write home about and played double the amount of time he did in the quarterfinals.

But not only that, Blatt with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 fouls drawn, the most by far this season where he had two games of 4 to go along with an efficiency rating of 31 showed just what type of heart, drive and desire that the guard had to will his team to the win.

No Blatt in game one and there would have been no win no matter what one may say.

“Two excellent teams, very aggressive game and in the end we wanted it more,” Blatt said following the win. “On Friday we are already in Jerusalem, we need to look ahead and hope we will win and move on. As I have said all season long, I try to bring my best to every game. My teammates believe in me and I really want to win. They are a very aggressive team, we were there today, the crowd really pushed us and we are looking forward to game two.”

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

One of the teammates Blatt was referring to was without a doubt Roman Sorkin who was on the receiving end of many of the assists that the guard dished out.

“I think Blatt is amazing. I have been with Blatt all the way back when we were 14-15 years old, I know him for such a long time. It’s great to see him and how he has grown and he has proven what he can do despite what some will say is a lack of size. He always raises the level of his play and it’s so much fun to be with him. At every level of the youth I was able to see how he continued to improve and develop.”

“He sees the game at the highest of levels,” Sorkin continued. “He knows how to put the ball in the right place and he has eye contact with each player on the court and can put the ball in the right place for you at the exact second. He plays at a very high pace and you can’t leave him alone for a minute. We all have to give him so much credit. It’s a privilege to play with him. He can pass the ball so well and he moves so fast and quickly it’s really just fin to watch.”

Blatt’s father, David may have been a superb coach but he was no where near the player that Tamir is.

Tamir Blatt – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Blatt Jr. has shown to all that he is a special player and a keeper for years to come and with that in mind, apparently the guard exercised an escape clause in his contract to become a free agent this summer, but from the word on the street it was just to renegotiate the terms and of course the compensation which seems very well deserved.

“This doesn’t affect me,” Blatt said about the contract situation. “I’m looking only at bringing a championship to Maccabi. This is what is important to me and what is important to everyone here. We have worked very hard this season and we are not stopping here.”

Katash had his contract extended by two years and with the head coach on the sidelines there is no way, shape or form that he and Blatt will part ways. Not a chance.

“Tamir have given us so much, especially in the second half of the season when things just clicked. Tamir really showed a lot of character and not just in his basketball play but things way beyond that. His body language has been great and coaching him for so many years is so wonderful to see him grow and continue to improve.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Maccabi will head into game tow with an opportunity to wrap up the series, but it will not be as simple as pie with 10,000 Jerusalem fans filling the Arena in the capital city and with the Reds season on the line. The yellow-and-blue may be without Josh Nebo as well due to a leg injury and it’s unclear who will replace him and if Wade Baldwin will make his return to the court.

The same is true for Levi Randolph who is out with an ankle injury. The forward will want to give it a go for game two and sitting on the sidelines is a frustrating as ever, but Yonatan Alon will just have to go with the players who he feels confident in and that can perform.

Khadeen Carrington was one of the players that raised the level of his game in order to give his team the best chance to win and is confident that Jerusalem can win two games in a row to make their way to the finals.

“Obviously [the injured] Levi Randolph is a big part of what we do and he’s a leader for us and that was a lot of points that we didn’t have and I had to pick it up. We all stepped up and we all played well for the whole game. We will watch some film and clean some things up and give ourselves a good chance on Friday.”

Khadeen Carrington – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“We feel that we have what it will take to win the series,” Carrington continued. “We have the guys and the coaching staff to pull out two in a row. We played hard the whole game and I’m proud of how the guards and bigs played, we played our hardest, we could have done some things betetr but you can’t blame anyone at the end of the game.”

At this stage of the season, the most important thing is to come in and compete as best as one can and there is no question that both teams will do just that. However, with Blatt clicking on all cylinders, Jerusalem has a big ask to win tow in a row over Maccabi with a potential game three back in Tel Aviv.

Nothing is impossible, but it’s improbable.

The yellow-and-blue will do everything in their power to close out the series on Friday afternoon at 2:45pm in order to avoid the possibility to play a third game and get in the rest that they will want to have ahead of the finals.

If Blatt can continue to play as he did in game one, then this should be elementary.

Tamor Blatt and Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

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