Oded Kattash: "I think we are ready".

Oded Kattash: “I think we are ready”.

Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv completed their final training session in Belgrade ahead of Game 3 in the Euroleague playoff series against Panathinaikos. The match is scheduled to take place at the Alexander Nikolic Hall in the Serbian capital today at 17:00 UTC. With the opportunity to seize a 1:2 lead, the Maccabi squad aims to take a significant stride toward the Final Four.

Reflecting on the team’s readiness, Coach Oded Kattash stated, “I think we are ready. In the second game, Panathinaikos played with more energy and aggression, reacting to the first game. Now it’s our turn to react. Their dominance in second chance points, 2:22, is not characteristic of us. We are better than that. That’s our primary objective.”

Regarding Wade Baldwin’s availability following his injury in Game 1, Kattash remarked, “We’ll wait and see. He will undergo further assessment tomorrow, and then we’ll have a more precise evaluation from the medical team. He received additional treatment, and we’ll gauge his condition on the court.”

Acknowledging the significance of Baldwin’s absence, Kattash admitted, “Certainly, Wade’s absence is significant. I would feel much more comfortable with a full squad, enabling us to distribute minutes and sustain intensity. Other players will need to step up. We need to elevate our focus and aggression. We faced some experienced players who caused trouble in Game 2. While we didn’t mentally collapse, there was a sense that they were more aggressive, playing with urgency. That’s what we aim to emulate tomorrow.”

Responding to statements from Panathinaikos players regarding the series, Kattash asserted, “It’s not surprising, and it doesn’t affect us. We must stay focused on basketball. Personally, I don’t let it distract me, and I hope the players share the same approach.”

On Panathinaikos’s strengths, Kattash observed, “There’s a reason Panathinaikos finished second in the season. They excel in certain aspects. Without Wade, everyone needs to step up. It’s difficult to predict individual shot distribution before a game, but collectively, we need to intensify our aggression. Our lack of free throw attempts in Game 2 reflects our softness.”

Addressing the pressure of the playoffs, Kattash emphasized, “Pressure is inherent in the Euroleague from the outset. We embrace the challenge, and that’s how we approach Game 3. It’s a fundamental aspect of basketball. Reaching the Final Four is never easy; we must earn it by demonstrating desire and determination.”

John DiBartolomeo: "I feel much better. I aim to improve my performance in the series. The injury won't affect me."

John DiBartolomeo expressed optimism despite recent injury concerns, stating, “I feel much better. I aim to improve my performance in the series. The injury won’t affect me.”

Echoing his coach’s sentiments, veteran guard emphasized the importance of focusing on one game at a time and controlling emotions amidst rising playoff tension. “We have all the confidence that if we give our best, we can win the series.”

Regarding the challenge posed by Kostas Sloukas, DiBartolomeo acknowledged, “He posed difficulties in the first two games. We’ve focused on how to handle him better. It will require a collective team effort; one player alone won’t suffice.”

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