Shouts of "Resign!" are not foreign to Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt at the end of games against Tau Vitoria. Similar cries were heard during a game in the second part of last year, after his team blew a two-digit lead and lost by one point on a last-minute three-pointer. During the season before that, a great game against Vitoria catapulted Maccabi into the Final Four. It does not look like this will happen this season.
Maccabi lost last night at its home court in Yad Eliahu 72-69, continuing its sloppy play of late. Perhaps Maccabi will still win three crowns this year - a local "double" plus the championship of the Adriatic League.
But its collection of players, including the $700,000 per season fictional character named Hussayn Besok, cannot turn into a team overnight as if Harry Potter cast a magic spell.
No one complain about the efforts of superstar Nicolai Vujcic, Tal Burstein, and the fighting Derrick Sharp and the industrious Gur Shelef - but a team that returns to the court after a timeout with 9 seconds on the clock, trailing by one point and is not able to spread out and commit a foul, is simply not a team.
Tau, on the other hand, was able to band together and compensate for the absence of the injured Spanish player Luis Skola.
Marcus Goree did not really find his place, perhaps through no fault of his own, but it is inconceivable that after Tau moved to a constellation of four short players that it reached the end of the third quarter with only 8 fouls.
Everything now depends on the game in Siena. But the way Maccabi Tel Aviv looked last night, the might effective thing to do might be to pray.
Shelef said after the game that he understands the fans' frustration with the team's performance. "The crowd has the right to express its opinion. It's a big part of us. We're frustrated and they are also frustrated."
David Federman, one of the team's owners, tried to downplay the calls for replacing Blatt. "I don't think we need to work under the pressure of the crowd. David Blatt is the coach now and no one is talking about anyone else," he said.
High scorer for Maccabi last night was Vujcic, who threw in 19. Sharp and Besok were also in double digits, scoring 11 and 10, respectively. Burstein chipped in 9.
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