By: Nick Gibson, Sam Meyerkopf, Rob Scott & Simon Jatsch
Madrid’s got the combination of depth and firepower to drop 100 on you without breaking a sweat, (almost) literally. Maccabi’s got the coach who thinks he can keep you from scoring as long as he’s got five reliable guys on his side.
High-powered offense against airtight defense. It’s not an original narrative, but it’s always an entertaining one.
Other Playoff Previews:
Real Madrid will win because…
Pablo Laso has tamed the perfect temptress: fast, loose, yet selectively prudent. They push the pace, can either shoot over or dribble past you from four positions, yet don’t turn it over as often as a typical run-and-gunner (see Small Samples below for more on that). Blatt can run his smaller line-ups out there and Madrid can crush them at their own game, offensively. But you know what Blatt can’t do? Counter with significant size beyond Different Darko should Laso choose to beef it up (or if, Basketball God forbid, Shawn James picks up early fouls). And if Hickman’s torching Sergio Rodriguez (feasible) or Sergio Llull (less feasible but…also feasible), then Laso can tug on Dontaye Draper’s warm-ups and toss him into the fray to stop the bleeding. Go big, go small, run transition or half-court sets; Madrid’s got enough options to keep Blatt from settling in and scheming his way to a series victory.
Maccabi Electra will win because…
David Blatt runs a short, tight rotation of guys he trusts. He knows the guys that will go to war for him. After a recent victory against Khimki Moscow that helped propel Maccabi to the Playoffs, Blatt had this to say, “I said that players needed to be ready to die on the court, symbolically. Moran Roth, Nik Caner-Medley and Darko Planinic died on the court tonight and brought us this victory,” Blatt said. Maccabi’s players are ready to give their lives for this series.
Maccabi will try to run on Real at every moment and will look to harass their ball handler into bad decisions. Shooting will play a crucial role as often times Maccabi puts four perimeter-oriented players in next to either Shawn James or Darko Planinic. Maccabi’s most used lineups, are also their highest +/-, they know who to play and who to trust. Leading the Euroleague in steals and blocks, this team can get vicious and nasty on defense led by one of the best top of the key and rim protecting combo in Europe with Ricky Hickman and James. Real Madrid has more talent but Maccabi’s fights harder. Hard enough that Real will get frightened in big moments and a team that is ready to die for it’s coach on the floor will have the toughness and defense to move on.
With Thomas/Caner-Medley unable to play quality minutes (partly due to injury), Blatt has played Pnini (152 minutes) and Smith (100 minutes) extended minutes on power forward this season. An option, too, against Real Madrid’s strong Mirotic/Reyes tandem?
Real Madrid turn the ball over on roughly 13 percent of their possessions, lowest (best) turnover percentage in Top 16. They better keep taking care of the ball against team that is third in the league in shooting percentage in possessions after a defensive rebound and second in possessions resulting from a steal.
-Simon Jatsch, In-The-Game.org
In 2008, after eliminating Real Madrid in the Top 16, Maccabi lost the Euroleague Final to CSKA Moscow, in the same building in which they will face Los Blancos on Wednesday. Maccabi Assistant Coach Derrick Sharp played in the game, so perhaps he will want to bury some bad memories. Or maybe he got rid of those demons the next time Maccabi made the Final Four, when they whupped Madrid 82-63, in the semi final in 2011. Sharp’s three pointer in the final minute of that game was his last made bucket in Euroleague competition after a legendary 15 year career in yellow, winning a SuproLeague and two Euroleague titles.
That was the 42nd meeting between the two since 1967, and they split a pair of Regular Season games last year. There’s every chance we get to Game 49 this month.
Who Wins, & In How Many
Nick: Real Madrid in four
Sam: Maccabi in five
Rob: Real Madrid in five
Simon: Maccabi in four