“We have to prove that we learned from the Baskonia experience” Maccabi looks to rebound against Barcelona with some home cooking

Nov 10, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

After last week’s humiliating 87-116 loss to Baskonia in Spain, Maccabi Tel Aviv returns to EuroLeague action tonight at Yad Eliyahu to face Barcelona. Both teams come into the game with a 4-2 record, but Barcelona will feel confident after last week handing Fenerbahçe its first loss of the season in an 81-80 home win.

Locally, Maccabi had a positive start to the week, convincingly beating Hapoel Eilat 96-74 in Eilat on Sunday night in round 5 Winner League action, in a game which the yellow and blue never looked like losing. Of course, the Winner League is at a different level to the EuroLeague, however there are some positives which coach Oded Katash can take from the game. All of the dressed players played and scored and no player was on the court for more than 23 minutes.

Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

In addition, the Israeli players logged a total of 114 minutes, which is obviously important game time for those who have not had a chance to play in the EuroLeague while the team dominated in the paint, with 40 rebounds and scoring 19/22 free throws. Perhaps most importantly in preparation for Barcelona, the backcourt duo of Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin IV were able to have the night off and watch from the sideline. Notably, Jake Cohen, sporting his Movember mustache – which he told the Sports Rabbi about in a recent interview – had a man-of-the-match performance, finishing with 14 points (including 2/3 from 3 and a perfect 4/4 from the line).

Then, on Monday evening, the Maccabi players, coaches and staff participated in the unveiling of the new El Khawarna Sports Hall in the northern Israeli-Arab town of Kfar Qara, together with distinguished guests, including the outgoing Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport Hili Tropper, Kfar Qara head of local council Adv. Firas Badahi, and CEO of Mifal HaPais, Adv. Benjamin Dreyfus. “We had the honor to inaugurate a sports hall in the Kfar Qara local council, we were privileged to receive a warm and wonderful welcome,” said Maccabi chairman, Adv. Shimon Mizrahi. “We at the Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club wish for our hosts that outstanding basketballers and exemplary athletes will grow on this court.”

Photo Credit: Kfar Kara Regional board

Now, Maccabi will be happy to return to home tonight, where they hope to maintain their perfect record in Tel Aviv. “Obviously we are very excited to go back home, first of all, in front of our home crowd,” Katash told the media yesterday. “We talked a lot about last week, the loss against Baskonia, which was a really tough experience. We have something on our shoulders coming into the game tomorrow. We have to prove that we learned from that experience, and we have to come out really aggressive and really motivated, to show that we learned from it. We want to bounce back. Obviously, basketball-wise, we are ready for a very tough game.”

More often than not this season, Maccabi has opened its EuroLeague games poorly. Last week was no exception, as they went into the first break down 20-35. This is something that Katash is aware of and knows that the team needs to fix: “Our poor starts to games is something that is not applicable to only one player, nor one specific group of players on the court at one time. It’s something in our energy, in our character, that we must change. We’ve managed to get some wins with some big second halves, but again, games like Baskonia away or Barcelona at home, that’s not enough.”

“We’re definitely still thinking about that game – it didn’t go as planned,” Jalen Adams reflected on the game against Baskonia. “We just take the negatives from the game and try to turn them into positives. We need to come out with more energy at the start of games, and try to lock in from the gate.”

Jalen Adams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Barcelona, a team leading the EuroLeague in 2-point percentage with 58.1%, plays a different style to Baskonia, and Katash focused on the difference in approach: “Each coach has his own style. It was clear to us that Baskonia would be wild, want to run and take a shot within 5 seconds. We know Šaras [Jasikevičius, Barcelona’s coach] more likes to control and wants to get to the right situations. He has done this successfully in Europe already for a few of years. This will be a completely different game – very aggressive with a lot of patience on their part. And I think that this is the reason that they are so good shooting for 2 points, they are patient enough get to the places they want, which they do at a very high level. If against Baskonia it was more important to stop the first 5 seconds [of the shot clock], when you play against Šaras’s teams you need to stop the last 8 seconds.”

One of the players leading the way for Barcelona in their high field-goal percentage is center Mike Tobey, whom the Sports Rabbi interviewed earlier this week. After a relatively slow start to the season following his time with Luka Dončić and the Slovenian National Team over the summer, in the last two games against Milan and Fenerbahçe he has averaged 13 points at 76.9% from 2 and 7 rebounds. “So far it’s going great and we are having a good season so far,” Tobey told the Sports Rabbi. “I hope that we can continue to improve and I’m definitely enjoying it here so far.”

Maccabi will benefit from Jarrell Martin, who returns from a short stint on the sideline with injury, however they will be without Roman Sorkin. Sorkin has shown no signs of suffering from a sophomore slump in his second season with Maccabi, averaging 6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14:27 in his 5 EuroLeague games to date. He leads Maccabi for offensive boards with an average 2.6 per game, and this is something that the team will miss tonight.

Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“I’m not sure exactly why or how that’s happening,” Maccabi center Josh Nebo said when responding to a question about the team’s overall lack of offensive rebounds and second- and third-chance points. “I feel like we just have to keep doing the same thing, crashing the offensive boards, and I feel like over time we’re going to convert those into second-chance points.”

“I think we need to get them more ball,” Adams said on how they can get their bigs more involved offensively. “Get them involved in the pick-and-rolls, and just be more aggressive. I think everything comes from playing with a sense of urgency. If we can get the defense to adjust to us [guards], then we can dish it off to our bigs, who are capable of finishing.”

Maccabi’s recent record against Barcelona at home will give them some confidence – having won 5 consecutive games at Yad Eliyahu against the guests – with Barca’s last win at Yad Eliyahu being in November of 2016. Tobey is determined to help his team change this trend: “We can go in there after a long trip and do what we need to do with the right mindset and energy in order to get the win. Maccabi’s squad are all super talented and growing up in the US I am familiar with these guys as they were big names in college basketball. We have been watching them all year but we need to execute our game plan in order to break the streak of losses in Tel Aviv.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It’s a bit of a stressful statistic,” Katash said of the ledger. “I don’t know if there’s an explanation for this. First of all, respect – this is a very impressive statistic. I don’t think there’s another team in Europe that has done this. I don’t know – I’ll call Ioannis [Sfairopoulos, former Maccabi coach] to check.”

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