“Throw the first punch” Poythress & Maccabi look to get off to fast start vs Panathinaikos

Oct 27, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

After an 88-84 overtime win against Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Winner Cup final in Hadera on Sunday night, Maccabi Tel Aviv return to Yad Eliyahu tonight for its round five EuroLeague clash against coach Oded Katash’s former team, Panathinaikos. Maccabi comes into the game with a 3-1 record in Europe, and the visitors come in with the inverse record of 1-3.

Since the beginning of the season, Katash has been consistently telling the media that it’ll take the team a while to get comfortable with each other. While things are starting to come together, his team still has things work out – especially the inconsistent performances during games, “It’s difficult to put a finger on it, it’s being spoken about. We’re trying, there are objective reasons – fatigue, we need to manage the minutes a little better, but there are also things like focus, and we aren’t the only team that has ups and downs in the middle of games, and it happens.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

On managing minutes, Katash has relied the most on Lorenzo Brown, who played 40 minutes in the derby, and other than resting on the bench for the whole fourth quarter against Villeurbanne, has played a large majority of minutes in the EuroLeague so far this season, “It’s something that we need to pay attention to, and we need to increase the rotations and get more significant minutes for more players.”

Derby MVP, Alex Poythress, also had a heavy load on Sunday night, logging 38 minutes, “It was tough, it a tough game, it was a hard-fought game. You kind of feel the effects of heavy minutes afterwards, but the coaching staff and Reggie [head strength and conditioning coach, Regev Fanan] and everybody does a good job of managing us, and we’ll be fine. We got a lot of good rest, you know the game was on Sunday, Sunday to Thursday we had plenty of time to rest, so that won’t be an excuse looking forward. As a player, you always want to play heavy minutes, and then you feel the effect afterwards, but you always want to be on the court.”

While Maccabi has generally struggled at the beginning of games in the EuroLeague (needing to come back from double-digit second quarter deficits in both of last week’s games), the yellow and blue came out strongly in the derby, and they will hope to again be able to do that against PAO. “I feel like we’ve got to come out how we played the last couple of games,” Jarrell Martin said. “Come out playing hard, throwing the first punch and maintaining it throughout the whole course of the game. I feel like if we come out being aggressive, the sky’s the limit for us. We’ve got to keep the momentum rolling from previous games.”

Alex Poythress – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Their opponents tonight come into the game following a disappointing round four 80-83 loss to AS Monaco at home, however former Maccabi player, Derrick Williams, will come into the game with confidence after scoring 28 points in that game, including a record 24 consecutive points in a period spanning the second and third quarters. He will be one of the players who will need to be on his game if they are to stop Maccabi’s big trio of Poythress, Josh Nebo and Roman Sorkin.

“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” Poythress spoke of the clash. “They’ve got some good bigs – [Georgios] Papagiannis, he’s playing well there. They’ve got Gudaitis – he was one of my teammates for a couple of years, I know him, he’s a big physical big, we’ll have our hands full with him. They got D Will too, who is playing very well at the four. So it’s going to be a tough match, but I feel like we’re ready, and we’re looking forward to that matchup.”

Another player who joined PAO in the offseason who will keep Maccabi busy tonight is veteran Mateusz Ponitka, who spoke with The Sports Rabbi in the lead up to the game: “They have a lot of good players and they are playing better every game. You can see that they are a new team that has started to click step by step. It will be a very physical game for sure with a very good atmosphere in the Arena. The Israeli fans are really loud and cheer for their team very strongly so I am sure there will be a good atmosphere.”

The advantage of playing at home is something that the Maccabi players recognize. “Most definitely,” Martin said when asked whether playing at home gives them an edge. “Playing in this atmosphere here, it definitely gives us that extra drive and energy to fight.” If Maccabi does get the win, and can go 4-1 after five rounds, it will give them a huge boost heading into November.

Jarell Martin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

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