Without Andrew Goudelock but ‘plus one’: Maccabi leaves Kazan with victory

The duel of the two best attacking guards of Euroleague Americans Goudelock and Langford was to be the major event of the basketball evening in Kazan. Like epic warriors in the Kulikovo Field, the leaders of Maccabi and UNICS were obliged to perform a solo part of the two teams (and probably decide the battle) that did not start the major club tournament of the Old World successfully. Famous TV commentator and constant author of Realnoe Vremya Aleksander Norden tells how UNICS lost only one point against its guests from Israel (73-74).

Twists of fate

Very UNICS President Evgeny Bogachev welcomed the delegation of the Tel Aviv club that was flying to Kazan after a victory against Fenerbahçe at home all day long when it approached Basket Hall to change the hosts and to warm up and train. The strict but fair head of the club, who came to 'look at the guys' eye' who broke one day before in the third quarter of the Istanbul match against Anadolu Efes, finally met his colleague Shimon Mizrahi and invited him to watch basketball together.

Yes, it was cold outside, but a hot weather was expected on the court! Having started with four slips, UNICS started to improve and won Fenerbahçe in an away match and Crvena Zvezda at home but went off the rails on the court of Efes and finished second to last. The guests who became European club champions six times have one defeat less and one victory more than Kazan players do.

In the 2013-2014 season, which was lucky for the 51 -time champion of Israel, the leader of today's Maccabi and former player of Los Angeles Lakers Goudelock was the idol No. 1 for Basket Hall. The staff of the Tel Aviv club did not field him in the game against Fener in order to enable him to remind the basketball community of the capital of Tatarstan about himself. In fact, Andrew was to be fresher than his vis-à-vis Langford who worked hard in Istanbul from the kick-off till the end and scored his usual 25 points (plus 9 assists) failed to save his team together with Artsyom Parakhouski. By the way, Keith played for Maccabi from 2011 to 2012. So people's fates are twisted here.

The guests who became European club champions six times have one defeat less and one victory more than Kazan players do. Photo: tatar-inform.ru

Parakhouski who decently fought against Efes was to show very strong basketball as well in order to not to lose against their opponents under the backboard together with Williams – 213 cm American Colton Iverson and 208 cm centre with German passport Maik Zirbes. The opposition was present in other positions too. For instance, Joaquim Colom vs Victor Rudd who was one of the light spots of Nizhny Novgorod last year despite the colour of his skin.

Last time the rivals met in a Euroleague match recently – in January. At that moment Evgeny Pashutin's players easily defeated Maccabi who had a fall and did not reach the Euroleague playoff for the first time – 92-82 in Tel Aviv and 78-68 in Kazan. In the new season, our Israeli guests pushed the re-set button, became noticeably stronger and full of confidence to prove that four defeats at the beginning were a nonsense. UNICS has just nothing to lose. So neither of them could win easily.

The guest team had more chances to win – only its head coach Erez Edelshtein was absent. Meanwhile, Orlando Johnson's stupid injury he got in Istanbul in his first match for the new team was added to his vis-à-vis' loss of Ponkrashov and Clarke. Peresvet's his own field gave him power at that moment…

Goudelock is not the only player

The major sensation took place during the pre-match warm-up: the famous No. 0 Andrew Goudelock was modestly sitting on the edge of the bench of his team and did not appear on the court. When the starting protocols were delivered, the presupposition was correct: Maccabi coaches kept their star in the game against Fener not for UNICS. The chances of Kazan players for a favourable result automatically grew. The spectator lost in terms of the battle of the 'headliners' of the evening.

Rudd finished the first fast attack of the guest team with a three-pointer. Langford failed his answer, which was a bad signal because Seeley helped to reach a 5-point excellence. In the 2 nd minute, Panin's long-range shot woke the semi-empty stands up. Both teams tried to act fast but failed to shoot a basket more than they succeeded – the basket spat out the balls after Colom, Iverson, Kaimakoglou shots. In the 5th minute, former CSKA player Soni Weems increased the supremacy of the guest team to 7 points – 10-3. And only then Parakhouski scored two points at the third attempt.

Both teams tried to act fast but failed to shoot a basket more than they succeeded. Photo: tatar-inform.ru

When the score was 5-14, Evgeny Pashutin took his first timeout: as much as he said on the eve of the game that his players would not allow Israeli players to feel free on the court, Smith and Rudd shot from corners with almost no opposition. Weems' two fouls by the 6 th minute was the only thing that Kazan players managed to achieve at the beginning of the match.

3 minutes before the break. Pashutin almost completely changed the squad: Antipov, Antonov, Williams and Voronov were to add some freshness and aggression. But then the guest team's excellence had two digits – 20-10. When the captain of Maccabi Guy Pnini made the score 25-12 quickly, it became clear that 'Pashutin's debut' did not work. Having shot three free throws in the last seconds, Langford changed his partners' mood – 17-25. But it was only one person's achievement, not a result of the team. Nobody remembered the absence of Goudelock – a team with yellow T-shirts was on the court, not a person's team.

UNICS against Devin Smith

The second quarter started optimistically for UNICS – Voronov's dribble was successful. His second and third fouls were not necessary, so he gave way to Panin.

Guests changed their central players. Zirbes appeared instead of Iverson who scored 2 points in the first quarter. But they could not score during 3 minutes and earned 4 fouls. The host team took the lead during these 3 minutes 6-0, so that Maccabi's staff had to take timeout. Only after that, the best player of the guest team Devin Smith scored the first points for his team in the second quarter.

UNICS approached the rival at a distance of a long shot – 22-25, 26-29, 28-31. Finally, in the 17 th minute, Langford flew away with the ball and reduced the margin as much as he could. The game 'point after point' that spectators like very much began, and the hall excitedly started to buzz. But the host team lacked just a bit to take the lead. And when 2 minutes separated them from the half-time break, Langford levelled the score with a shot from outside the arc – 35-35! Keith was good with his 8 points. However, Smith had no mistakes. By the end of the second quarter, he had 14 points, and mainly thanks to it Israeli players lost that quarter (16-21) but conserved their general excellence – 41-38.

Those players who win the third quarter win the match

Irrepressible Smith shot a two-pointer in the first seconds of the second half of the game. Meanwhile, we thought Maccabi was not terrifying without Goudelock. The guests passed the ball as a flash in attack, hard and skilfully defended. The margin started to increase, but Langford and Colom kept the guest close due to their three-point shots. And Iverson started to succeed, unfortunately. In the 24th minute, the American central player already had 10 points.

Maccabi won the quarter 20-16. Photo: unics.ru

The referees were not impartial as they should be: Williams is granted a flagrant foul, while Smith is awarded a usual one. A game of nerves began: both Colom and Weems (twice), Williams and Iverson with Seeley failed to shoot a basket until the guest team's centre stopped the 'game to make mistakes' who had a flagrant foul on Banić. Rami Hadar took a one-minute break. Banićperformed only one free throw and after Antipov's two-pointer the margin was -2 – 49-51.

Weems got his fourth foul, and Kaimakouglou shoot a basket – 51-53! UNICS stole the ball. But this time the beardy Greek failed his shot – where has his unshaking hand been lost in this season? Colom was sent to have a rest. Langford appeared to play the last two minutes of the third quarter. Kazan players started to steal the ball more often and defend better. But their own Kazan baskets didn't receive balls as if they had not been theirs. 76 seconds left until the last quarter, and Banić's three-pointer made the rush successful – 54-55! Almost successful because Williams contacted Zirbes and committed a foul. The German increased the margin by 3 points, then by 5 points – 59-54. Maccabi won the quarter 20-16. The margin of 7 points (54-61) did not seem to be an obstacle for the host team. The analogous rush was successful recently against Crvena Zvezda. But it is known: those players who win the third quarter…

Failed free throws decided everything

Yes, there were not two hundred points in total like it was against Anadolu Efes. I thought before the last quarter that there were too many failed shots, extremely strong defence. But the host team's thrust in the first 2 minutes of the last quarter after Antipov's successful shot resulted in 61-63! Smith committed a foul while impeding Voronov from dribbling. But the whistle kept silence. Parakhouski performed a slam dunk assisted by Langford. But guests were not accurate. The Belarus player failed a midrange shot. Smith who stopped with his 16 points earned by the beginning of the second part of the match gave the same answer. When 5:31 left before the whistle, Langford left him behind on the list of sharpshooters and equalised the score (63-63) with his 17 th point!

And Voronov did that for the first time! 65-63, after Antipov's shot, the score became 67-63! Here it all began! But they had to play for eternity. Kazan players started to hurry up, lost Seeley and Ohioan – the score already was 67-69. Well done Banić – the Croatian player levelled the score – 69-69. 2:12 left until the end. But Maccabi was ahead again 71-69. The hall went cuckoo. Iverson's fourth foul, and Voronov failed his both free throws. Meanwhile, Kaimakoglou lost a rebound. Banić fouled when he contacted Weems, so he was substituted by Panin.

One minute to finish. The host team had the ball. Langford shot a fadeaway shot but failed it. The guest team was accurate – 73-69. Pashutin took timeout when the score was -4 when 41,2 seconds left. Langford did not hit the target again. But Voronov was fouled by Weems for the fifth time. Zhenya was bad at performing free throws again. Only one of his two attempts was successful – 70-73.

UNICS used the tactics when small fouls are applied. Constant stops of the game. But guests started to attack. When 9 seconds left, Antipov breached the rules with Seeley who made a shot. It was enough to win. Langford shot a three-pointer when the referee whistled. He became the best player of the match with 22 points. But it is a bad excuse. 73-74 and you kick yourself and remember the three out of four free throws that Evgeny Voronov failed.

By Aleksander Norden

UNICS (Russia) — Maccabi (Israel) 73-74(17-25, 21-16, 16-20, 19-13)

UNICS:Langford (22), Kaimakoglou (8), Colom (5), Parakhouski (5), Panin (3) — starting line-up; Antipov (12), Banić (10), Voronov (5), Williams (3).

Maccabi: Smith (16), Iverson (12), Seeley (11 + 6 assists), Rudd (8), Weems (6 + 7 assists) — starting line-up; Zirbes (8), Ohyon (5), Landesberg (4), Mekel (2), Pnini (2).