We have a difficult series of games to reach the play-in and it starts now: Katash and Maccabi Tel Aviv close in on postseason

Mar 14, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv readies to face Red Star Belgrade on Thursday (20:00 Israel time) as they look to continue their fine play of late and move closer to locking down and Play In spot as well as potentially advancing directly to the postseason.

The yellow-and-blue will be on the road this time around in Belgrade which has served as their home away from home due to the war against Hamas as they play Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team at the 20,000 seat Stark Arena which will be bursting from the seams and sold out.

Oded Katash’s squad currently sits in 9th place with a 15-13 record which is the same as Baskonia who are in 8th spot while Red Star sports a 10-18 record good for 16th place. However, Maccabi hasn’t won against Crvena Zvezda in their last 6 games and haven’t defeated them on the road since November 11, 2013 when the Israeli side won 78-76.

Oded Katash – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

“It’s hard to explain exactly why there is this streak,” Katash said. “We analyzed the previous game and it was a bit strange, I don’t know if it’s a professional matter or it was fatigue, we were in a double week and we weren’t focused. Winning away, in such an atmosphere, will be much more difficult. They have tools, the teams are the same in some ways and also in the way of playing the game, it will be tactical. I don’t know how to explain what is happening when we play Red Star in recent years.”

Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo also spoke about the tough games that the yellow-and-blue have faced at Red Star, “It’s definitely a team that has given us trouble recently. A lot it will be handling the atmosphere playing in that environment. The teams are familiar with each other and the coaches as well and how they will play. It’s up to us to play our game.”

For Maccabi to find a way to come away with their third Euroleague victory in a row, Antonius Cleveland knows what the club will need to do, “We need to lock in defensively and execute the game plan and just keep playing with energy. This is kind of a must win and the while team feels that way and we just have to plays like it. Everyone knows that this is an important time of the season and we have more of a sense of urgency. We don’t have many games left and every game is important so it kind of helps us up our play and mentality and you’re seeing that.”

Antonius Cleveland – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Before the February break, Maccabi was stuttering as their record dropped to an even .500 at 13-13 but with two wins under their belt and six games to go in the regular season it’s money time for Katash as he looks to have his team play the best ball that they can.

“I agree that we are in a better place than three weeks ago, but there is still a lot to improve. We need to play better in many ways to meet our goals. The level of execution on the attack, more consistency on defense and I don’t feel that we have reached our ceiling, there is a lot to improve and that is what we are trying to do. We have a difficult series of games to reach the play-in and it starts now, we can’t think ahead.”

Cleveland agreed with the bench boss, “We have to worry about ourselves and control our own destiny we don’t want to drop games and wait on teams to lose to get into the playoffs. This is the Euroleague so anyone can be beat another team on any given night and we have to not take them from granted. They beat us last time you never want to get swept there as well. It’s a good opportunity to end that 10-year losing streak now. I didn’t know that, that’s crazy.”

John Dibartolomeo – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“Every season has its ups and downs and it’s a long ten months,” Dibartolomeo said. “The goal is to get better every month as we head into the key moments of the season. The beginning of season gave us distractions and it was even more than that as to what everyone has gone through. We have some momentum and we understand more of what we are doing and playing together. Every week is different and we gave to be ready to play.”

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