By: Rob Scott / @RobScott33

Maccabi Tel Aviv 96 vs. 82 Crvena Zvezda Belgrade

1. This is already a David Blatt team. Guys like Nik Caner-Medley, Giorgi Shermadini, (Different) Darko Planinic and Milan Macvan have struggled in Tel Aviv as Blatt demands one hundred percent defensive effort and accountability. There’s a mutual comfort level with the return of David Blu and Big Sofo, and Alex Tyus is the kind of big man Blatt will be happy to play. Blatt tends to improve his teams over the course of the season, so to see them ticking over this well so soon is encouraging for another playoff run. Too early to say much more but the early signs are good.

2. Further to this point, with chemistry already looking strong, their spacing and shooting were at mid-season level. They hit six of their first 11 three point field goals, and finished 15-of-28 on the night. Whether it’s in halfcourt or transition, where they have excelled over the past few years, they send shooters to the corners and find them open. When Crvena Zvezda brought an 18 point lead back to 11 in the closing minutes, Tyrese Rice stepped up and hit a pull up three plus the foul.

3. Joe Ingles is going to love playing for Blatt. In Barcelona, he had the occasional outburst from behind the arc, but was shackled by playing behind more established names and within the structures of Xavi Pascual’s system. As long as you don’t slack on the defensive end, Blatt allows much more offensive freedom. Ingles being able to express himself more can only be a good thing. Its easy to point to individual plays, insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but his one-dribble, step back move for a three pointer was a sign of a player being able to unleash his huge confidence in his own ability.

4. Crvena Zvezda are an expensive mess. Euroleague’s ‘other’ Belgrade team have not gone down the same youth route as neighbors Partizan, paying big money to attract or retain Blake Schilb, Charles Jenkins and DeMarcus Nelson. It isn’t working. Schilb may be capable of filling up a boxscore in a good way, but if he is your main ball-handler, your team has a ceiling substantially below where it should be, given his salary. He passes out of necessity, not invention, and this is a team without a plan offensively. Other than some nice dump offs to Marjanovic under the basket, which is where he needs to be in order to score, each Zvezda guard taking it in turns to go it alone isn’t going to work.

5. Boban Marjanovic could be the new Big Sofo. Not much of a resemblance, you might think, but with Sofo fading as a relevant player on the big stage, Boban is the next best thing if you want to find an example of a player whose sheer size and physical strength might demand special attention every night. He finished with 20 points on 9-of-12 FGs and 13 rebounds (five offensive) and six fouls drawn for a 29 ranking. In an era of Hines and Slaughter-esque small centres, Boban is a throwback to a simpler time, and the game is all the better for it.