Corker Langford! UNICS vanquishes its main rival in Tel Aviv
Yesterday Kazan UNICS had an away match with Maccabi Tel Aviv. The match ended with a victory of the Kazan players 92-82. Realnoe Vremya tells the history of the great Israeli club in the old days, UNICS' victory and irrepressible Langford.
It was a fight for the leading position in Group Min the second stage of Eurocup. Earlier both teams had two wins over Nizhny Novgorod and Olimpija. Undoubtedly, it was clear before the second stage that these two collectives will meet in combat for the leadership. But it seems that there are no surprises.
Israeli chief Maccabi
Maccabi in its championships performs a function of CSKA (Moscow) – a perennial favourite. But the Israelis' dominations has been lasting since 1970(!). For these years, the team lost only 5 titles. Moreover, from 1970 to 1993 Maccabi was a continuous twenty-three-time champion! These are just phenomenal results. Add to this fact 42 Israeli Cups and you will understand that there are no rivals in the interior scene.
As for the European tournaments, from the end of the 70s, Maccabi started to achieve success and won European Champions Cup in 1977 and 1981. The next success was achieved in 20 years: in 2011, Maccabi became a three-time champion of Europe when the team defeated Panathinaikos in the final, and repeated the result for the fourth time in 2014. The team played in the final of European Champion's Cup 8 times and won in Adriatic League in 2012.
The Israelis' unlucky streak
However, Maccabi does not feel good lately. In this season, the team has not reached the second stage of Euroleague for the first time in its history. So, now it is in the second group stage of European Cup together with UNICS. Maccabi has never played with UNICS. The great Maccabi takes the second position after 16 rounds, 11 victories and 5 defeats in Israeli Championship. The reigning champion Hapoel from Jerusalem is the leader.
Maccabi has many veterans who has been defending the colours of the Israeli club for many years. According to the statistics of the club, the best players are Mbakwe who collects 7,0 rebounds on average, Smith scored 13,4 points and Rochestie has 5,0 rebounds. In the detailed statistics of Eurocup Mbakwe has 14,0 total rebounds and takes the leading position. But the leaderships in other sections belong to our guys: Langford has 27,0 points, the leaderis Mike Green (USA) playing in Venice (Italy) has 11,0 assists, who is followed by Joaquin Colom, who is in the second position and has 10,0 assists. Randle, for instance, is the fourth concerning block shots – 2,0. Evgeny Valiev (Zenit St. Petersburg) is the first – 3,0. As for playing time, Rochestie has 35,20, he is the leader.
Before going to Israel, the head coach of the Kazan team Evgeny Pashutin shared with the press service of UNICS his expectations of the match with Maccabi.
'We will face an interesting confrontation, a difficult game. Our task is to control the pace of the game and play in defend. We will try to neutralize the snipers of Maccabi as much as possible. There will be a severe fight near the backboard, we are going to fight for rebounds. We will try to play intelligently in attack, move the ball and play with every one. The most important thing is to play with a sober mind,' said the mentor of the players.
Excellent in attack, but worse in defence
Evgeny Pashutin: 'We will face an interesting confrontation, a difficult game… The most important thing is to play with a sober mind.'
Kazan started the match very successfully: it shot two three-pointers in a row, and then tried to repeat such attacks. But Maccabi attacked better. By the end of the first quarter, the host team began to use quick counterattacks more often. UNICS, respectively, possessed the ball better than its rival and could use excellent combinations as Kaimakoglou and Williams showed. Due to quick attacks, probably, Maccabi was ahead for most of the quarter. And here the two-time MVP of the second group stage of Eurocup Joaquim Colom appeared, shot a couple of important balls at the end and guaranteed a victory of the first quarter 24-23.
Kazan relaxed when the next 10 minutes began. And Maccabi took the opportunity. However, UNICS manned up and did not the rival to augment the score. Just some minutes before the end of the half of the match, the host team added 9 points thanks to Davin Smith's balls that always 'touched the hoop'. But the Kazan players demonstrated their character and reduced the difference, so that only 1 point left to catch them up. Langford's three-pointer looked especially great — Keith just 'shut up' the siren.
The Kazan players started the second half of the match more aggressively. Keith Langford turned on his 'god mode' again and showed just a fiery game. Although it should be said that the rest of the team decreased its pace probably hoping for the American defender's actions. This is why Maccabi could return the advantaged and tied the score. But Colom and Langford's active game in attack generated a plenty of fouls against them. If all penalty shots were successful, the margin before the last quarter would be wider. 71-68 and the stands were ready for hot final ten minutes.
In the fourth quarter, UNICS started to run out of the clock, as it knows to do, and score points. Milaknis appeared on court and began to bring results to the team. Langford played both in defence and attack. We can say frankly – the whole team headed by Evgeny Pashutin felt great in this match. But Langford… Langford dropped 30 on great Maccabi! If you see the news that Keith is MVP of Round 3, don't be surprised, he deserves it. It may seem that the rivals are equal, but in the second part UNICS did not give any opportunity to the Israelis and swept to 92-82 victory! The players from Kazan take the first place in the Group and are likely to pass to the next round.