The last thing that Oded Katash should have been doing after Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Barcelona 83-78 was complaining about the referees. Before placing the blame on the refs, the bench boss should take a good hard look at his actions as he was plenty responsible for the stunning defeat. Certainly the players froze up, couldn’t make shots and the zebras didn’t do anything to help Maccabi, but ultimately the buck stops with the head coach.
With the Yellow & Blue up by 10-points, 67-57 with less than half a minute remaining in the third quarter, Katash’s crew gave up triple to Mike Tobey and then a pair of free throws to Rokas Jokubaitis after Josh Nebo fouled the guard with just two seconds left in the period. So much for the double digit lead as that evaporated very, very quickly.
Ok, a 5-point, 67-62 lead heading into the final frame wasn’t bad considering that Maccabi was behind 41-37 at halftime, however, it was a shame to see that advantage flushed down the drain.
From there Maccabi clung onto a 74-68 lead with 7:27 left in the game, but Saras Jasikevicius’s squad saw exactly where the winds were blowing and they ripped off a 14-0 run as the momentum titled the court for only one way traffic. Between 7:27 and 0:51 Maccabi did not score a single point. Not one. Nada. Zip. Nothing. Zero.
Miss after miss with the pressure mounting saw the Yellow & Blue in absolute druthers as Barcelona kept filling the basket and Maccabi was totally coming apart at the seams, unravelling in what would be a loss that could have devastating consequences on the balance of the season.
However, part of the blame has to be squarely placed on the shoulders of Katash and not the refs who he was trying to scapegoat. It was Katash who called to a coach’s challenge with 6:30 remaining in the last quarter which swung the momentum to the team on the other side of the court.
At the time, Maccabi was still up 74-68 and were holding their own, but Katash decided that he wanted to challenge a call but in essence what happened was that he stopped his own players cold in their tracks. The referees took quite some time to come up with their call as seconds and minutes ticked away. Regardless as to who won or lost that challenge which ended going in Maccabi’s favor, Barcelona with their fans were injected with a sense of pride, a sense of possibility and that extra energy that was needed to begin picking apart the visitors to which Katash and his crew had absolutely no answers for.
It didn’t matter who it was, Wade Baldwin, Darrun Hilliard, Jarell Martin, Bonzie Colson, Jalen Adams, they all came up empty shot, after shot, after shot after shot during that Barca run. They were pressured, they were under pressure and that pressure got to them, plain and simple.
When Barcelona made the game 74-70, Katash used a timeout but that didn’t make a difference as Nikola Mirotic went for a 3-point play, Cory Higgins drained a 3-pointer and that was that as the hosts rattled off point after point from the field and from the line (to which Katash was alluding to when he complained about the refs).
Katash has got to be honest with himself, he’s at the top of the food chain and saw his team totally fall apart with not an answer in sight.
Some can say that it was about the rotation Katash used which featured only 9 players as Jake Cohen looks to have been replaced by Su Braimoh and didn’t see any court time while both Rafi Menco and Iftach Ziv also weren’t used. For those wondering where Guy Pnini was, he wasn’t dressed.
Barcelona may have played all 12 men on their roster but a couple, of them played under 3 minutes a piece but Katash once again wasn’t able to manage his roster as we have seen time and time again.
As that third quarter was unfolding Maccabi looked as good as they have all season long as every single shot was finding its way into the hoop. It was as if the yellow-and-blue were the best team in the Euroleague and the reaction by all of the observers was, where has this Maccabi been hiding all year?
Was Maccabi going to bump their record up to 12-10 and win that one game that they would need to ensure that after their 3-game road trip they would end one game over .500 at 12-11? Could it be that Katash would split the first two and have a chance to go 2-1 with the final game of the trio at Valencia on Thursday night and home return to face Red Star Belgrade 3 games over .500 at 13-10?
Nope, that was just a pipe dream. With the loss to Barcelona, Maccabi are now 11-11 and desperately need to defeat Valencia in order to go back to Yad Eliyahu at 12-11 because if they don’t, well their record would be sub.500 with all of the pressure mounting.
The last thing last thing that Maccabi will want is to be 11-12 when they look Red Star Belgrade right into the whites of their eyes at home knowing that they have to win in order to stop the snowball which could see the season end in disastrous fashion.
Of course, Katash and crew may walk into De La Fonteta and do what they need to do, but Valencia has been very good and after a win over Bayern Munich, Chris Jones and Co. will be looking to avenge the loss back in December at Yad Eliyahu when Alex Mumbru’s team came to Israel with a very much depleted roster.
The signs are all pointing in the wrong direction and without Lorenzo Brown, whom Katash said will not play at Valencia despite being with Maccabi in Spain, the yellow-and-blue may be in for yet another one of those games that they may want to forget very, very quickly.
We’ve hit February and it’s money time in the EuroLeague. Can Wade Baldwin wise to the occasion and lead Maccabi to victory at Valencia? Will Oded Katash be able to find the right ingredients to take what is now a must, just win?
It’s time for the real Maccabi Tel Aviv to stand up and be counted.
We’ll find out very soon who will come be in the playoff party as we head into the final stretch and who won’t.