It’s one of the most mythical rivalries of the EuroLeague, almost every game between both clubs has entered the pantheon, both clubs have increased their budgets and made very interesting moves during the offseason and both clubs that have replaced their head coaches are striving to get back to where they belong and with a few hours remaining until the tip-off, here’s what we’ve learned from the Maccabi side over their last two games (Barcelona, Ashdod).
1. Shooters play 101-
A lot can be said about what the Maccabi has been through in recent weeks and it might seem irrelevant to discuss what that has happened, however since the change in the head coaching position, the Maccabi offense looked at times unstoppable and that is to say until they’ve met a team that has a high defensive basketball IQ such as Barcelona, a team that have succeeded easily to impose its will on Maccabi.
During that game some of the things came crystal clear regarding some of the offensive plays that coach Hadar was running for Andrew Goudelock, truth to be told, shooters play is rather something new for the Maccabi offense but still we would expect when running this play for Goudelock that the last screen would be set by a big man or someone that is simply strong and known for his frame.
In addition while running this play or any screen for that matter the (offensive) player that is supposed to go through the screen simply has to go as close as possible (“shoulder to shoulder”) to the player who sets the screen, and that’s simply for the screen to actually be relevant, now at the same time that the shooter is going base line through the last screen the ball needs to be passed to him already so that he will get the ball as soon as he gets to position, if any of the aforementioned steps are not performed correctly or to its fullest extent, than the meaning would simply be no open look\contested shot.
2. Devin Smith-
Having Devin simply for the EuroLeague is a huge privilege, however Devin is being utilized more as a four (due to his defensive attributes) and less as a small forward, on the offensive end when playing as the power forward he can stretch the floor but, he can also play with his back to the basket while playing the three (when inverting the game) in such case he can also pass the ball outside to the shooters to do some extra damage, advantages aside Devin’s frame allows him to play the PF only to a certain point, which brings us to the next point.
3. More minutes to Joe Alexander-
Especially when Zirbes is on the court- so far in the EuroLeague quietly on the bench he awaits, domestically on Monday at Ashdod he started taking some of the rust of and along the way has shown some positive things on the offensive end while Maccabi was running the shooters play he was the last to screen which made it very hard for the defense to “break” the play.
In addition to that while he was playing the PF (he also played the C position) alongside Zirbes he immediately passed the ball to him to the post, something that the PG position needs to do more, and preferably as soon as he positions himself in the low post.
4. Set offense- from game to game it becomes more and more evident that a playmaker is lacking in the Maccabi offense, putting Goudelock or Seeley at PG is simply a solution and nothing more, both players are doing a great job so far, but since the Maccabi offense is lacking on half court sets the question regarding a playmaker remains and the solutions needs to be found within the staff, especially in times where the demand for such players is rising and the supply seems to be extremely low.
5. Defense- Perimeter lockdown, High Zone defense-
Since coach Hadar was appointed it is abundantly clear that things have changed, but a lot of work still needs to be done on the defensive end, both on their pick n’ roll defense and also on their high zone defense that can help with locking the perimeter or at least making it hard for the teams to get open looks that are created by simply moving the ball.
6. Crashing the boards-
Before the game versus Barcelona, teams that were crashing the boards against Maccabi got a lot of second and third chances on offense. The Barcelona game has revealed the team’s issues with a low tempo game on half court sets, when being executed to a great level can become a problem. It’s safe to assume that Maccabi will try to run as much as they can, just like we might expect to see Pao slowing the game, but as games between two sides have proved to be so far.
Looks like once again we are in for a treat. Maccabi will have to attack extremely fast, and also they will have to mark the “Green’s” backcourt (especially Calathes and Pappas) on defense, as well as denying open looks from Nichols and KC Rivers, when it comes down to the front court Maccabi will have to go inside as much as they can in order to damage Pao, the fact that Bourousis lost Mike James and that the backcourt is currently lacking, coach Pascual will have to get creative and find other ways to utilize the all-EuroLeague center, and that’s until they will be able to find a suitable reinforcement.