What the heck did we witness in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night? How in the world did Maccabi Tel Aviv find a way to win a game that they were totally down in the dumps in just minutes ahead of halftime when they were behind 42-23?
There are still many fans shaking their heads as to what occurred in arguably the Yellow & Blue’s best second half of the young season to date to send Oded Katash’s squad to a 78-70 win.
These are the games that create chemistry, these are the games that build confidence and these are the games that a team can ride the wave on to bigger and better things.
Maccabi looked absolutely dead in the water with 2:14 left in the second quarter but then all of a sudden Bonzie Colson (8 points) scored, Austin Hollins (5 points) grabbed a board that led to a Roman Sorkin basket, Colson stole the ball and Lorenzo Brown (13 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) found points while Jalen Adams assisted on another Sorkin basket to end the half. From 19 points in the hole, Maccabi went into halftime down just 11 points, 42-31 and the momentum all on their side.
Eight quick and unanswered points sent Katash’s crew into the third quarter knowing that they had a very good chance of winning the game with the crowd behind them and that’s exactly what happened.
Bang, bang, bang.
Wade Baldwin (21 points) who had been shooting blanks all half long playing 16+ minutes and going 0/3 but when the third quarter began, the “Way of Wade” just got onto a roll and drilled home a trio of triples. Add to that solid points by Austin Hollins and then a John Dibartolomeo (6 spoints) special near the end of the frame and Maccabi had cut the lead down yet again to just 7-points, 59-52 as the sharks were sharpening their teeth.
Bang, bang, bang once again as John D and Baldwin kept hitting from deep as Sorkin played terrific ball along with Lorenzo Brown, Colson, Hollins and newbie Jalen Adams as the Maccabi Mack Truck just went off for a 26-11 final frame to take the impossible win.
The captain, sharpshooter John Dibartolomeo who hit two critical 3-pointers, as usual tried to push the credit off to his teammates and also gave us a window into what Katash told the squad at halftime that spurred the tremendous comeback win.
“I was fortunate to hit some shots today but I think everyone contributed to the victory, especially the fans, they pushed us forward and we got some momentum. The key to the comeback was that I think we did a good job of staying calm and it started with Oded. He preached to keep playing the right way and that things would come together. The second half the defense gave fuel for the offense.”
Hollins whose all-around play was tremendous, has not yet been registered for the Israeli League as rumors swirled that he was not the exact player that Katash had wanted or needs at this moment in time. But not only was a sparkplug on defense in this game, he was in the starting lineup. As always the swingman was the pros pro following the game as he explained how he views the situation along with how good a feeling it was to be a part of the win.
“It was a good feeling because I know how hard everyone in this locker room is working. It definitely feels good to show what we can do together. My focus and my concern is with the team. As far as I’m concerned I am here right now in this locker room and my job is to come and be ready every game and every practice. And until I hear otherwise I will battle for these guys that are sitting next to me.”
Katash silenced the critics about what Hollins’ status is with the team, “For me it’s very clear, he’s part of the team and part of the rotation. His defensive abilities is very important for us and perhaps his fitness was still in process and it took a little bit of time.”
But above all stood Wade Baldwin with a 21-point unstoppable second half. There was just no stopping the guard as he shot was just on.
“If Wade has another game like that, we may call him a shooter,” Hollins said with a chuckle. “But everyone had a role in this win we played great team defense.”
There were some shots that Baldwin took both on and off of the dribble that just hit the spot, in transition, in the flow of the game and in any which way, when he got on a roll there was just no stopping that train.
“Wade is a great player,” Dibartolomeo said. “He’s one of those guys that can breakout at any moments and so tough to guard. He can get any shot he wants especially when he is connecting from the three point shot and he’s difficult to stop. When he is creating that opens up the floor for the rest of his teammates and that’s why we had such a good second half.”
Baldwin himself also looked back to what happened on the hallowed Yad Eliyahu court but also spoke about how the Fenerbache game was a part and parcel as to how Maccabi played in this game and found a way to pull out the win.
“Fener punched us in the face consistently last game and the first 20 minutes here we just did not have enough effort really. Monaco has great pieces around them. But this is the first Euroleague we won the battle on the boards. Guys accepted the challenge and guarded big players. It’s important and we need everybody. We keep finding our groove and we have another 31/32 more games. We are in a good place right now.”
Katash also referenced back to the game last Friday night in Turkey, “We have to continue coming together as a team. A team like Fenerbahce and players on that team have been together for some time and have played at the highest level in the Euroleague. We are behind in that because we have a brand new team but we are working hard to eventually get to that point.”
But with every double week in Euroleague play, focus has to shift fast to the next opponent and the next game while making sure not to overtax the players with a quick turnaround, “ We will have to split the minutes up and begin working on Villeurbanne on Thursday. It’s not simple to play in a double week.”
“It’s a totally different game and we have to come in with a different game plan. We did a good job in the second half on the Monaco guards but this game is a totally different matchup. We need to continue playing with commitment.
“We have to focus on ASVEL next. They beat us in the preseason so we need to get our revenge. They went to the French finals and are very good, but we are a better team now and we will see what happens on Thursday. We are 2-1 in the Euroleague but I don’t really give a s!@#, we have a game on Thursday and a Cup final on Sunday,” Baldwin exclaimed.