By Amy Samin
Less than 48 hours after a tough road trip in the frozen north (also known as Lithuania and Serbia) from which Maccabi returned with two victories, the team faced Barak Greentops Netanya of the Israeli League and came away with an 85 – 70 victory. In another display of balanced teamwork, Maccabi had six players scoring in double figures, led by David Blu with 17 points. Shawn James added 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. Team captain Tal Burstein also had a great game with 12 points, 4 assists and 3 steals.
After the game, head coach David Blatt said, “It’s not easy playing here. Most of the teams in the league come here and have trouble against Netanya, as we did. It was hard to play at peak all the time, but I liked how we were patient and didn’t give up. In the end, the clear differences between the teams shone through. Netanya is a team that knows what it expects from itself, and they’ve lost three crucial players this season. We had a tough time, and I’m happy because it helped us to stay sharp for [the Euroleague game against Barcelona on] Thursday.”
“The fact that they are in slightly less good shape doesn’t mean anything,” the coach said, addressing the question of the fitness of the Regal Barcelona players. “We know exactly which team we’ll be playing on Thursday. In terms of their big men and their outside players, the matchup is a better fit for us, but finally we’ll be playing at home. It’s going to be that way for the near future, and that’s good for the families and for Maccabi. Chuck Eidson? He gave us an incredible season last year, and it’s a fact that he was the most in-demand player on the market last summer. We really appreciate what he did for us last season, and I hope he feels the same way about us.”
Maccabi’s starting lineup for Monday night’s game in Netanya included Shawn James, Devin Smith, Lior Eliyahu, Tal Burstein, and Yogev Ohayon. Maccabi started off strong and took a 9 – 5 lead after three and a half minutes off points by Eliyahu, James, Ohayon, and Burstein. Adrian Banks was able to turn the lead over to Netanya with the score 14 – 13 halfway through the period, but Burstein scored from downtown to put the lead back in Maccabi’s hands. Brian Asbury and Lior Lifshitz combined to put the hosts back on top despite five points from David Blu, and the first period ended with the home team leading 25 – 24.
The early minutes of the second quarter were close, with the lead changing hands five times until Blu’s deuce made it 30 – 29. Langford sank a three pointer (assist Smith), then he and Jon Scheyer added points from the charity stripe to give Maccabi some breathing room. Though Maccabi’s defense did an excellent job, from blocking shots to steals to forcing turnovers, Netanya crept back into the game, pulling within one before Richard Hendrix slammed home a dunk to make it 38 – 35 with a minute and a half left in the period. Blu’s catch and shoot (assist Langford) gave Maccabi a slight edge going into the halftime break with the score 42 – 38.
Langford and Hendrix broke things open at the start of the third quarter, and Smith added a three from the left wing (assist Langford). A layup by Blu increased Maccabi’s lead to thirteen, 53 – 40 just under four minutes into the period. Banks and company cut short Maccabi’s run at 11 – 2, but a stop-and-pop in the paint by Blu and a dunk by Hendrix (alley oop from Ohayon) made it 57 – 44. Burstein and Eliyahu added points from the foul line and Scheyer added a fastbreak layup, 62 – 55 with just over a minute and a half on the clock. Eliyahu, James and Smith wrapped up the period, which ended with Maccabi leading 68 – 60.
Burstein started off the fourth quarter with a three pointer on the right wing, and James added three straight buckets under the basket to make it 77 – 62. James wasn’t resting at the other end of the court either, where he continued to reject Netanya’s shots and pull down defensive boards. Blu’s coast-to-coast layup put Maccabi up 79 – 62 and led to a time out. Asbury and Banks did their best, but they were no match for Maccabi’s well-oiled teamwork. James and Burstein wrapped up the scoring, the latter with a steal + full court layup, to give Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv an 85 – 70 victory over Barak Greentops Netanya.
Maccabi: Blu 17 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; James 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist; Burstein 12 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds; Langford 11 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound; Eliyahu 11 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 steal; Hendrix 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, 1 block; Smith 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Scheyer 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists; Ohayon 2 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 assists, 1 block.
Top scorers for Netanya: Asbury and Banks 18 points each.