Maccabi Tel Aviv kept rolling along on Tuesday night as it moved closer to clinching a postseason berth with a 111-80 blowout win over visiting Bologna.
The yellow-and-blue came out on fire to begin the first half as it grabbed a 15-4 lead and never looked back, with seven players finishing the game in double digits and everyone scoring in the win.
With its fifth win in a row, Maccabi moves to 18-13 on the continental season with three games to play as it looks to punch its ticket to the playoffs when it faces Milano on Thursday. Tel Aviv is in sixth place, with the top eight teams after 34 games advancing to the quarterfinals.
Bonzie Colson set the tone early with a pair from deep while Wade Baldwin and Lorenzo Brown scored at will against a porous Bologna defense as Maccabi ended the first half with a 24-4 run and a 29-point lead (62-33).
Roman Sorkin and Josh Nebo scored easy buckets as did Darrun Hilliard in the second half as the hosts cruised to the win.
Hilliard led the scoring for Maccabi with 16 points, Brown added 14 points and eight assists, Baldwin scored 14 points and added seven helpers, Sorkin scored 13 points, Nebo chipped in with 12 points and Colson scored 11 points in the win. Semi Oheleye scored 16 points and Awudu Abbas added 13 points for Bologna in the loss.
“It’s a great win for us, as a coach you never expect that kind of performance,” Tel Aviv coach Oded Katash said following the game. “It was almost a perfect half for us. Offensively and defensively, I’m very happy and the most important thing is that we passed the ball and had 38 assists with six turnovers, you can’t ask anything more than that.”
Two completely different games
“Congrats to Maccabi, there were two completely different games,” Bologna coach Sergio Scariolo began. “They canceled us from the floor and their pace was unsustainable. They arguably have the best backcourt of the competition, it’s hard to find a better one and this pace came from there. They have so many athletic and fast players and the team follows the leaders.”
Brown spoke about how this game was the club’s best of the season, as well as sending a message to the rest of the league.
“I have to say that’s a yes for me, I think we were clicking on all cylinders tonight – defensively, offensively – and the ball was moving, so that’s the most important thing right there.
“Hopefully everyone is watching us right now. We’re still fighting for our respect and I think we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a long journey so we’re willing to put that into play and sacrifice what we need to sacrifice.”
Clinching a playoff spot
Next up for Maccabi is the date with Milano on Thursday as it will attempt to clinch a playoff spot. Katash isn’t taking Etorre Messina’s team lightly as it is currently playing its best basketball of the season.
“Milan do things very carefully and deliberately, it won’t be easy,” said the Maccabi coach. “We have to come into the game very focused and see how we will use our fouls intelligently. They will be a very big challenge for us. They have a very good team with a very dominant guard and this will be a totally different game than the one against Bologna. Milan plays very intensive defense and I trust that the players will make the adjustments. We don’t have a lot of time to prepare which we will do over the next 48 hours.
Victory in the EuropCup
In other European play, Hapoel Tel Aviv cruised to a 108-69 victory over Promitheas in the EuroCup as it jumped out to a big lead after 10 minutes and never looked back to notch the win. Five players scored in double digits as Jaylen Hoard led the way with 23 points, Tomer Ginat added 18 points and Chinanu Onukau chipped in with 16 points in the win. Ex-Gilboa Galil guard Joe Thomasson paced the Greek squad with 16 points in defeat.
“I’m super proud of our guys and our club for making a great debut in the EuroCup competition,” Reds coach Danny Franco said. “Finishing up on a high note today in front of our fans, who are following us everywhere, home and away was key and I just appreciate their effort. We’re going to keep on dreaming, try to go as far as we can. And big respect to everybody for the effort and the way we played today.”
Hoard also reflected on the game.
”I think we can go far. We have a deep team, a lot of guys who can contribute from different places, so I think we are a balanced team, and I think we can go far. We are just focusing on the main things, being unselfish. Our best games are when we have a lot of assists, so we have to continue to share the ball and trust each other, I think that is going to help us a lot.”