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It all starts with Defense: Maccabi Tel Aviv’s got to get back to the basics against Valencia

Dov Halickman Photography

Maccabi Tel Aviv tip-off Friday night against Valencia (22:00) in Euroleague Gameday 10 action as the Yellow & Blue will look to brush off their 73-69 loss to Real Madrid on Wednesday. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad will try to improve upon their 3-6 record after a disappointing display earlier in the week to get back onto the winning track.

Valencia enter the game after defeating Panathinaikos 95-83 which moved their record to 5-3 under coach Jaumu Ponsarnau who has been able to get the bets out of his squad game in and game out.

Interestingly enough Ponsarnau pointed out in his pregame comments about the clash that although Maccabi had the toughest defense in the Euroleague last season, they aren’t there yet this campaign, “Maccabi is a very athletic team and with lots of strategy. They try to keep the momentum from last season and I think they are not on their best defensive stages, yet. Last season they were the best in this aspect, and with the changes they made they are not anymore, but they are on their way to that goal. It is a complex rival for us, with virtues that are hard to stop for us. It’s important that we find our game against Maccabi and focus on that.”

It’s clear that Maccabi’s defense just isn’t were it needs to be. Sure we saw flashes against Zalgiris that gave the club hope, but that tough nailed play didn’t follow them to Madrid. So if the Yellow & Blue have any designs of improving their play this season, it’s all got to start and end with the defense.

The other issue at hand is the fact that Maccabi showed zero fight. None. Nothing. Nada. They looked like their were on a trip to Spain and forgot that there was a basketball game to play. Elijah Bryant spoke about improving their own play and looking inwards, “For us, as a team, in order to control the game we have to focus on ourselves. We need to come out ready to fight from the beginning and keep that mentality for all game. There will be ups and downs, but we must focus on fighting no matter the score.”

Coach Sfairopoulos also focused on battling and playing better D, so there is no question that this is one of the main problems Maccabi has to correct. They’ve got to be consistent with their defense and fight on the court, ”To control the game, we need to be concentrated from the get-go and show better character. We need to fight harder, be extra motivated to play good defense, and play smarter on offense. The most important thing for us is to change the way we performed in Madrid and show a different type of mentality on the court.”

At the end of the day for Maccabi, it’s all got to begin and end with D or else they will be in for a long night against a team with many weapons that can hurt you inside and outside. Whether it’s Bojan Dubljevic, Nikola Kalinic, Klemen Prepelic, Sam Van Rossom, Derrick Williams or wily veteran Fernando San Emeterio, they all know how to just kill you. If they get the chance they will. Maccabi be aware.

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