Day 1 derby: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Barcelona
Maccabi Tel Aviv will host Barcelona in the 5th round Euroleague in front of very noisy fans and after some turbulent times.
Both teams have the same 2-2 record, while Maccabi TA saw both wins coming since Assistant Coach Rami Hadar moved up to head coach.
Maccabi TA is playing very attractive offensive minded basketball since the beginning of season, which brought them to 2nd place in points per game in whole Euroleague (91 ppg). This efficiency can be big problem for coach Bartzokas side due to numerous injuries and general low scoring (71 ppg), actually the lowest in the whole league.
Barcelona defense is, on the other side, far more solid than Maccabi’s and that is the aspect which saved the start in Euroleague for coach Bartzokas. “Blaugrana” allows only 70.5 ppg, so it sounds quite impressive in this small ball/fast break basketball era.
Maccabi is the favorite, no matter how solid defense Barcelona provides. That is because of immense shooting capabilities of Mini Mamba, who can overpower any defense both for 2 and behind the arc, as well as Sony Weems and rock solid centers Maik Zirbes and Colton Iverson.
Both Zirbes and Iverson are weaker in defense, especially in central pick & roll D, but they have size and muscles to push Dorsey away from basket and to keep Ante Tomic under constant pressure. The ideal match-up for coach Hadar can be Zirbes on Dorsey and Iverson on Tomic, in our opinion.
On the other side, Barcelona has a lot to offer while PG Tyrese Rice is on the floor. Maccabi favorite since 2014 is now leading the “Blaugrana” team with 12.8 ppg, followed by offensively-rich center Ante Tomic (11 ppg).
Barcelona and coach Bartzokas are on the market looking for another guard to replace all season sidelined Pau Ribas. The end of problems is not there, while Juan Carlos Navarro and Justin Doellman are out with injuries as well.
All that makes Maccabi Tel Aviv “paper” favorite in this game, but both teams are true European powerhouses so it will be intense game for sure.