Maccabi Tel Aviv is one of the European teams that has in its DNA the key to winning the Euroleague, having done this 6 times. The last time was in 2013/2014 with a much inferior roster, after they eliminated EA7 Milano in a series where they did not benefit from their home-field advantage, and then they won against CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid to lift the trophy. The best player was Ricky Hickman 12.2 ppg, 2.7 ast.
The similarity with that season is that this year they did not have a dream Regular Season again, finishing in 5th place, with 20-14 and this time they will play in the playoffs without the home-field advantage. But as then they will play against an opponent whose value is not much higher, AS Monaco, a team that lately does not seem in extraordinary shape, losing to Anadolu Efes, Zalgiris Kaunas and Partizan. The problems this season come from away games where they are 5-12, at home being the best team 15-2. The big advantage is that they are the best team in the Euroleague in the last 10 matches, having 8-2.
Unlike then, now the team is much superior in terms of value. Lorenzo Brown – Wade Baldwin are the best backcourt duo in the Euroleague. Lorenzo is the best point guard with 16.5 ppg, 3.1 reb, 5.7 ast and Baldwin is an exceptional combo guard with 16.7 ppg, 3.6 reb, 5.0 ast. Bonzie Colson 10.9 ppg, 5.7 reb; Josh Nebo 7.7 ppg, 6.1 reb; John Dibartolomeo 5.9 ppg are 3 players of amazing consistency playing in all 34 Euroleague matches. Jarell Martin’s 7.5 ppg, 3.4 reb and Roman Sorkin’s 7.3 ppg, 3.2 reb were extremely useful in the team’s rotation. And we also have the x-factor that can come from 2 players. The first is Darrun Hilliard who has the weakest Euroleague season, with only 25% on 2 points but with 43.4% on 3 points. A player who in a playoff series or an elimination game can win games by himself; the second factor is Alex Poythress (8.2 ppg, 3.7 reb), a player who was announced to be missing the whole season but seems to have recovered much earlier and will play a few matches in the championship before the Euroleague playoff matches. The big minus comes from the bench, where Oded Kattash does not have the experience of matches of this level and we do not know how well he will manage matches with such stakes.
A team that won this season with Monaco, Olympiacos, Partizan and Real Madrid, led by the best backcourt duo and with a history of winning the trophy without being the favorite can hope to do a miracle again and win the title with the number 7, a magic number.
Image credit: EuroLeague