Given Maccabi Tel Aviv’s recent travails, last night's easy victory over Crvena Zvezda Telekom was just what the doctor ordered. It also helped to have the support of 11,000 raucous fans in Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena. Perhaps the convincing 96-82 win will set Maccabi on a new path.
It was a game in which many things that hadn't worked before suddenly came together. After coach David Blatt tried just about every possible lineup combination, he imposed order on the team’s hierarchy. Yogev Ohayon, Rickyk Hickman, David Smith, Joe Ingles and Shawn James started both halves. David Blu, Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Tyrese Rice came off the bench and all got significant playing time, between 16 and 22 minutes.
After yielding 48 points in the first half against Vitoria and Maccabi Haifa, the hosts opened with a textbook defense. Key was the manner in which Ingles eliminated Blake Schilb, who finished the contest with two points, as an offensive threat. The Red Star’s leading forward did not even score until early in the second half.
On the other hand, Maccabi struggled to stop Bovan Marjanovic, who finished with 20 points, but for every basket the 2.21-meter Serbian giant scored, Schortsanitis or James answered with a basket for Maccacbi on the other end. Suddenly, Maccabi appeared to have an inside game.
Maccabi, which almost always plays with a short power forward, is built this season for shooting threes. However, the team managed to connect on only 5-of-23 three-pointers against Haifa. Last night, its sharpshooters were hot, knocking down 15 of their 28 attempts from beyond the arc.
The only player who had a disappointing outing last night was Alex Tyus. With the team up 33-22, Blatt inserted Tyus alongside Schortsanitis, but the tandem didn’t work. The Red Star quickly exploited the temporary confusion to pull within three at 35-32. However, on a night like this Maccabi quickly went back on the war path, opening up a 43-32 advantage and never letting Red Star back into the contest.
Seven of Macacbi’s teammates reached double digits, with Smith leading the team with 17 points.