“We need to play the perfect game” Spanish Double Dip: Maccabi Tel Aviv heads to Barcelona and Valencia in need of a win

Jan 31, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv flew to Spain for a challenging EuroLeague double-week on the road which begins Tuesday against Barcelona (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST) and concludes against Valencia on Thursday night (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST). After its 95-89 loss to Olympiacos in Piraeus on Friday night, Maccabi is in 8th spot in the standings, with an 11-10 record. However, more troubling – especially with two road games ahead – is Maccabi’s league-worst 2-9 away record.

“You want to go into the game with a positive approach like we have all season,” Maccabi guard Wade Baldwin IV told the media yesterday. “You obviously know the struggles that we’re having on the road, that’s no secret to anybody in the locker room or anybody that’s been a part of this club. We’ve got to find a way.”

Saras Jasikevičius – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Barcelona is contending a spot in the top half of the playoffs, currently sitting in 4th place with a 13-8 record. They come into the game following a disappointing overtime 86-91 El Clásico loss to Real Madrid (2nd place, 14-7) on Thursday night, after they led by 9 points going into the final frame. The pressure will also be on coach Šaras Jasikevičius, with Barça’ yet to win at home in 2023 (going down to Virtus Bologna 75-83 and Anadolu Efes 75-80).

For their part, Valencia is in 9th place, behind Maccabi only on points differential. On Tuesday, Valencia will be hoping to extend their 4-game winning streak as they host Bayern Munich (13th place, 9-12). In their first matchup this season at Yad Eliyahu, Maccabi had a strong 84-68 win over the Spaniards on the back of a 31-21 last quarter. Given that these two teams look like they will be battling each other for one of the final playoff spots, Valencia will be eager to turn reverse that 16 points in the event that the two teams are in a tie-breaker situation at the end of the regular season.

After the game in Greece on Friday night and playing away to Kiryat Ata in a lackluster 100-88 victory last night, Maccabi coach Oded Katash will need to work out how to manage his players’ game time in order to give his team the best chance to take one or two Ws abroad.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It’s very challenging,” Katash said of the demanding schedule. “There are stretches of away games and difficult games in the EuroLeague – some more than others – and the travel. We need to overcome periods like this and do our best.”

Maccabi’s solitary home loss this season came against Barcelona earlier this season, with the Catalonians winning 79-86, courtesy of an 18-24 last quarter. Not only was it Barça’s first win in Tel Aviv since 2016, but they also did it without their star, Nikola Mirotić, who was out injured for the first 10 rounds of this EuroLeague season. Two of Maccabi’s better performers in that loss were Lorenzo Brown (who top-scored for the hosts with 18 points, along with 5 assists) and Alex Poythress (10 points and 6 rebounds), however the Yellow & Blue will be without both of them tomorrow night.

“We’re again going to be without Lorenzo, which is significant,” Katash emphasized. “We need to think about load management and we need to think about giving other players – maybe increasing the rotations – without giving up on the game before it’s even started, of course.

“We’re playing better, but we were also with Alex and Lorenzo in that game. They were without Mirotić, but a lot of things worked in their favor if you look at that game.”

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Baldwin talked about his increased role as Brown sits on the sideline recovering from his injury: “I think I’ve got to do things that brought me to this club in the first place. This is a situation I dealt with in Bayern, being one of the reliable guys, a hand-on-the-ball creator for the team, as well as in Baskonia. I think the club has full confidence in me and that’s why they brought me here. So now I have to step up and make plays for myself and for the rest of the team, which I’ve been doing all season.”

While Maccabi extended Jalen Adams’s contract until the end of the season and brought in Suleiman Braimoh to fill the void left by the absences of Brown and Poythress, the Yellow and Blue will now also be missing defender Austin Hollins, who, it was announced yesterday, will be out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.

“Guys are going to step up, like they’ve been doing all season,” Baldwin said. “Like we’ve said, this team has always found a way someone to have an impactful game, whether it’s Jarell Martin, whether it’s John [DiBartolomeo], whether it’s Roman Sorkin. Everybody is able to step up and have big games, so hopefully there’ll be another person this week.”

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

In any event, Maccabi will need to bring their A game if they are to start off this Spanish week on the right note tonight.

“It’s very challenging,” Katash concluded. “We need to play no less than a perfect game to get a good result.”

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