Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Red Star 87-84 in a close contest that came right down to the wire in Belgrade. With the game being played at the larger Kombank Arena for the first time this season, Maccabi took advantage of the host’s unfamiliarity of the Floor with a solid first half taking a 10-point, 49-39 lead into halftime. Deshaun Thomas with 14 points (28 overall) and Jonah Bolden with 11 points led the Maccabi offense while Norris Cole dished out 5 assists over the course of the first 20 minutes. However, the second half saw Red Star come back with a vengeance as former Yellow & Blue guard Taylor Rochestie went off for 15 points in the half (22 overall) while Milko Bjelica scored 13 points (22 overall) in the final 20 minutes and James Feldine added 19 points on the night to take the win.
1) Maccabi came into a rough environment and showed plenty of toughness over the first half limiting Red Star’s offense and scoring at ease to jump out to a solid 10-point advantage. But the hosts made the necessary adjustments in the second half to outscore Maccabi 48-35 to pick up the W. Rochestie has good looks all half long while the team as a whole went 8/17 from beyond from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes. Add to that a defensive effort that saw Maccabi’s assist total to go from 11 to only 4 in half number two and you have the perfect storm. Deshaun Thomas described it best, “We fought, but we got to get those little things to get over the hump. Turnovers, little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.” There were definitely plenty of little things but after just 4 Euroleague games Maccabi has won two and lost 2 by a total of 4 points. Not bad for a brand new team. As Thomas concluded, “We’re going to figure it out. It’s about learning, being patient and do your job.”
2) After last game, Head Coach Neven Spahija wanted his team to move the ball around more after the team only recorded 9 assists against Olympiacos. Norris Cole got the message and handed out 5 of the team’s first half helpers, but the last 20 minutes was a totally different story as Cole has just 1 assist in 13 minutes to go along with a total of 4 points. Number 30 had a rough offensive night thanks to the Red Star defense as they closed him down. Michael Roll also has an abysmal second half, scoring only two of his 11 points in 18 minutes. John DiBartolomeo had a poor shooting night with only 2 points while going 0/4 from 3-point land. But as always JohnD is a standup guy, “Tough loss. We didn’t do the things that we wanted to in order to come out with a win and that’s why we came up short. We didn’t get the stops and the rebounds that we wanted. But we have to take this, move forward, learn from it and get better.”
3) There’s no question that Maccabi is learning and if these last two games were played in perhaps a couple of months from now, the Yellow & Blue would probably be able to take the wins. One can see the group coming together, but there are two issues that the team is still legitimately working on as DeAndre Kane described, “We have a lot of guys who have never played in the Euroleague and 12 guys that never played together. It’s going to take time to jell and know different things on the court like defensive breakdowns and know where guys are at.” Certainly sounds easy, but that’s where easy ends. When putting a brand new team together, the key is that everyone also needs patience which is what Spahija said at the season opening press conference. Patience. The coach also promised that though they may not win every game, the team will fight and play hard. And fight and play hard they did yet again as Kane mentioned, “We played hard for 40 minutes but gave up a lot of offensive rebounds. We had too many turnovers down the stretch and it hurt us. Credit them, they played a good game, but we could’ve done better and won the game.” It’s never fun to lose, but these games, lessons and losses will be a huge advantage later on this Euroleague campaign when Maccabi is put in the same situation.
Do you want to have an awesome sports experience? Then make sure to visit Belgrade. What a great time. A historical city that sits on the banks of the Danube, Belgrade offers good shopping, great walking and fun all around. Add to that a Red Star football match at the Marakana and a basketball game at either Kombank Arena or the site of Maccabi Ted Aviv’s first European Cup victory Pionir, you won’t be sorry. The fans are loud, very loud and very active. You can walk the streets and see the bombed out buildings from the NATO fighters jets back close to twenty years ago, plus plenty of small shops, boutiques, museums and more. Check it out if haven’t already!