Why Maccabi Tel Aviv will win the Israel League Championship

Jun 13, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv tips off against Hapoel Tel Aviv on Thursday night at Yad Eliyahu in game one of the Israel basketball league finals with game two slated Saturday night at the Drive In Arena while game three of necessary will take place on Monday back at Menora Mivtachim Arena.

I’ve been tasked with explaining why the yellow-and-blue will win this best-of-3 series for the second straight season over the Reds and as close as last year’s series was where Hapoel came within inches of the title, this time around it will be a much easier task for Oded Katash and his charges.

Bonzie Colson – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

First of all, Maccabi comes into this series very well rested and ready to go. After eliminating Hapoel Jerusalem in the semifinals last Friday, they’ve had a full week off to rest, recuperate and ready themselves for the finals where they need two wins to be crowned champions. After a very challenging and difficult season which saw the yellow-and-blue play close to 90 games, take over 50 flights and move their base of operations to Belgrade for a good swath of the season, Maccabi has seen it all in the 2023//24 campaign after the tragic massacre committed by Hamas on October 7th.

With that in mind they want to end this season on a high note and have something to show from such a year after having lost a very tight Euroleague quaterfinal series to Panathinaikos and then came up short in the State Cup final against Hapoel Jerusalem soon thereafter.

There’s no way shape or form that Katash and crew want to finish this season off without a trophy, without something to show from their tireless and very successful campaign while maneuvering their way through what has been a one challenge after the next.

Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

While Wade Baldwin won’t be available for game one and probably won’t dress for the series due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the PAO series, big man Josh Nebo who came up with a leg injury against Jerusalem will be back while Jasiel Rivero, Roman Sorkin and Jake Cohen will have a huge advantage in the paint against Kyle Alexander and Jaylen Hoard.

Alexander played in game one their semifinal series against Kiryat Ata but didn’t dress after that while Hoard is still getting back into shape after returning from an injury and they will have a very tall order so to speak inside.

Point guard Tamir Blatt has been playing all-world basketball while Lorenzo Brown will want to raise the level of his play and show that he can dominate as he has done in the past despite not having played his best basketball of late. Bonzie Colson will bring a ton of passion and will want to hoist the championship plate yet again while Joe Thomasson will want to prove that he has a place with the club going forward.

Roman Sorkin and Tamir Blatt – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

Rafi Menco and captain John Dibartolomeo will bring their shooting and intangibles into the series and can definitely be game changers should Maccabi need it but they are coming into their clash as heavy, heavy favorites.

The Hapoel Tel Aviv team that they are facing is light years from what they were last season when J’Covan Brown ran the show. The reds are totally different in terms of the imports and are not playing at 100% while also having just played a tough 3 game series that ended a couple of days ago.

Braian Angola is registered and there had been thoughts that he was done for the season but will make his return which at this point is as mysterious as ever as to what he can provide. Xavier Munford had a terrific game three earlier in the week but ever since his suspension for marijuana use back in February he has been nowhere near the all-star player that he has the ability to be. Tyler Ennis is relatively new and while he is fantastic, as Kiryat Ata head coach Sharon Avrahami said that he could live with the guard’s points as long as the rest of the team was shit down.

Tomer Ginat – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Bar Timor and Tomer Ginat also look to be done from the season that saw them collapse in the Eurocup playoffs and have also had a tough time under new head coach Stefanos Dedas who came on board just a couple of months ago.

While Dedas wants to show that he can win the big one and take the title, the reality is that he is also new trying to rebuild a team near the end of the season and understands the challenges of that alone. He was one game from being eliminated against Kiryat Ata but was able to pull through, however, coming up is Maccabi Tel Aviv which is a much more powerful and complex opponent that wants the title as much as anyone.

Maccabi expects to win the championship every year and this one is no different.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Katash will have his players ready to go, focussed and primed to win the title which will probably be done in a sweep with game two in enemy territory at an arena that they lost by close to 40 points last season in game two. There’s no question that this is also sitting on Maccabi and there is no chance that they have forgotten what occurred last year as they will want to exact revenge for that lopsided loss.

With all of the above I find it very hard to imagine that Hapoel will have the horses to compete with Maccabi in this series and while they will try with all of the heart and all of their might, they are not as talented as last year’s version while the yellow-and-blue even without Baldwin are a much more polished team that has been together for almost two years as one team.

That’s why I’ll take Maccabi to win.

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