The six-time Euroleague champions failed to advance to the playoffs and they will end another season in a disappointing way.
Since shocking the basketball world and claiming the Euroleague title back in 2014, the Israelis have been unable to become a consistent title contender.
With consecutive eliminations, either in the playoffs or the regular season, the administration decided to make many changes in order to bring the club back to the winning track.
With many talented players joining the team (Alex Tyus, two-time NBA champion, Norris Cole, Pierre Jackson, Artsiom Parakhouski, among others) and Neven Spahija as the head coach, Maccabi’s target was to become ultra competitive and secure their place in the postseason.
Despite facing many ups and downs during the season, they were the favourites to clinch the last play-off spot, having a better record to Baskonia’s one.
Yet, they have simply collapsed in the past 45 days. Not only have they suffered four straight defeats and six in their last seven matches, but they have seen the Basques make a tremendous winning streak and overcome them in the standings.
Playing mediocre on both ends of the floor, the Israelis have failed to beat their opponents, having been victorious against only Anadolu Efes in Istanbul (81-94) on March 8.
On the other hand, the consecutive losses to Unicaja Malaga, CSKA Moscow, Khimki, Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos put the squad to a vulnerable position and made the match against Baskonia a do-or-die one.
However, they were defeated by the Basques at the “Fernando Buesa Arena” on Thursday night (83-72) and were officially eliminated from the playoffs.
Coach Spahija saw his players play very badly defensively in the last part of the season and concede 85.2 points per game in their last seven matches.
At the same time, they averaged 78.1 points per game offensively, however their defensive performance was very poor and that is one of the main reasons for their collapse.
Even though they were on top of the rebounds category (averaging 36.9 per game) and had a decent percentage in the assist/turnover ratio (154%), they had a low two-point (51%) and three-point (36%) percentage, respectively, which prevented them from shooting the ball well.
Concurrently, they had chemistry issues and maybe coach Spahija should have redistributed the roles in order to help key players step up and make the difference.
Players like Jackson, Cole, Parakhouski and Tyus had many ups and downs, which didn’t help the team take it to the next level, while nobody in the roster could act as a game changer in the crucial matches against Khimki, Panathinaikos and Baskonia.
More specifically, Maccabi’s players did their best to escape from Vitoria with a much-needed victory, however, and when everything was on the line in the fourth quarter, they came up short and the Basques scored crucial points to secure the victory and the qualification to the playoffs.
For me, the Israelis had to exceed the expectations and defy the odds in order to become title contenders, but the ups and downs they faced during the season and the lack of consistent performances made their effort extremely difficult.
Furthermore, their collapse in the last part of the season, when everything was on the line, showed they weren’t ready, both mentally and physically, to turn things around and advance to the postseason.
That said, the administration seems determined to make many changes to the active roster ahead of the new season, yet I don’t think this is enough to make the team one of the favourites to win the Euroleague title.