Maccabi with a good chance to win in Vitoria

Friday brings another night of exciting games in the EuroLeague. One of these will take place at the Fernando Buesa Arena in the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, where Baskonia will host Israeli giants Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Baskonia went through some changes in the summer. Veteran coach Dusko Ivanovic stayed with the team, but as it often happens with Baskonia, they cannot keep their star players for a long time. Some important players like Luca Vildoza, Pierria Henry, Achille Polonara, Tonye Jekiri or Zoran Dragic left. To replace them, Ivanovic brought in some important names. Wade Baldwin had a great year last season with Bayern. A very talented player, but one that often makes some mental mistakes and there was a big question mark if he can work with the very demanding and perfectionist Ivanovic. Baskonia also signed two great players from the other big Bundesliga team, Alba Berlin. Veteran Jayson Granger already played in Vitoria a few years ago, while Italian forward Simone Fontecchio plays for the first time in Spain. Other notable incoming players are Landry Nnoko, Matt Costello, Steven Enoch, Vanja Marinkovic or Lamar Peters, who arrived just a few days ago.

While the roster looks good on paper, Baskonia is very inconsistent and lately, they are playing terrible. They lost 5 of their last 6 games in all competitions and some of them were blowout defeats. If this streak of bad performances goes on, we might see a coaching change soon.

Maccabi Tel Aviv on the other hand is on a 5 game winning streak (in all competitions) and arrives in Vitoria very confident. In the last two weeks, they managed to beat their biggest domestic league rival, Hapoel Jerusalem and FC  Barcelona, maybe the biggest favourite to win the EuroLeague.

Maccabi had great rosters in the last few years too and I think they underperformed, but now it seems that coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos found the right pieces and they look like a team that can beat anybody. Scottie Wilbekin is the go-to guy, Derrick Williams and James Nunnally both play like in their best days and they have great force in the paint with Jalen Reynolds, Ante Zizic or Mathias Lessort.

While Baskonia is certainly a strong team at home, they have some issues right now and Maccabi has a way better momentum, so I see the Israeli team as favourites to win.

Imre Halasz

Photo: EuroLeague