Wade Baldwin says Olympiacos is the only team he wouldn't want to face in the playoffs, adding that the Play-In Tournament idea is ridiculous.

Credit: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Credit Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

The EuroLeague playoffs race this season is so crazy that when Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv were trailing by 1 point with 21.1 seconds left against Zalgiris Kaunas, some people might have thought we'd have another team dragged into this bloodbath.

Player of the Game
Rolands  Smits
Rolands Smits
Points 13
Accuracy 6-9
Rebounds 4
Assists 2

Wade Baldwin IV missed a potential game-winner, and Maccabi lost, bringing up the thoughts about how Maccabi missed their opportunity to secure a ticket in the EuroLeague playoffs.

Only a few minutes after the electric game in the Zalgirio Arena finished, it struck me that even a 1-point loss was enough for Maccabi.

Meanwhile, Baldwin knew about it way earlier.

"Yeah, [we knew it] during the timeout," Baldwin told BasketNews after the game. "We still tried to win [the game] on the last shot; I just missed it. But we knew that a 1-point loss would still qualify us."

During the last possession of the game, Zalgiris fans created as much noise as they could. Baldwin took the ball from the very start of the possession and, after crossing the halfcourt, was burning every second he possibly could.

With 3.5 seconds left, he went past Arnas Butkevicius and opted for a mid-range shot over Kevarrius Hayes.

The ball hit the rim, and Zalgiris celebrated a crucial victory.

"Everyone gets out of the way. That's the play," Baldwin said bluntly about the plan for the last possession.

Nevertheless, it still looked like a contested shot. It's not a problem for Baldwin, though.

"Yeah, we are gonna take such shots. It's a perfect shot, my midrange shot. I'm the best mid-range shooter in the EuroLeague for the past three years. Missed it [this time]," said Maccabi's guard.

However, it was not the craziest shot of the night for Baldwin.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, it seemed that Maccabi's possession was dead. With 4.6 seconds on the shot clock, Baldwin took the ball from his own paint, took a couple of steps, and with 2.0 seconds left, made a ¾ court shot.

Wade Baldwin IV

Wade  Baldwin IV
Wade  Baldwin IV
MIN: 27.51
PTS: 16.93 (51.61%)
REB: 3.54
As: 4.93
ST: 0.96
BL: 0.32
TO: 2.43
GM: 28

It was nothing but the net.

"The best half-court shooter on the team," Baldwin said smiling. "We joke about it all the time."

"It was a lucky shot," Baldwin finally spilled the beans.

Despite the loss, it marked the second Maccabi's appearance in the EuroLeague playoffs in the last seven years.

A 6-game winning streak prior to a loss against Zalgiris made a significant and crucial boost for the Israeli powerhouse. Before Maccabi's longest winning streak of the season began, they hadn't won 3 games in a row since October.

"We were in a good rhythm," Baldwin told BasketNews about a solid Maccabi's stretch. "Tonight [on Thursday], we just didn't hit our shots. A lot of our threes were off, and it happens in basketball. Though, we defended well, holding them under 70 points. It sucks that our shots didn't go in, but we gotta stay happy about advancing to the playoffs."

However, that winning streak didn't come because of Baldwin alone. He praised his teammate Lorenzo Brown, explaining how the EuroBasket gold medal winner helps him on the court. 

"I'm playing with another great playmaker," said Baldwin. "It's a lot easier when you have a guy who can do a lot of things on the court. During the past seasons, the weight was always on my shoulders to create everything for the team. This isn't a situation; it's a collective group thing."

After a win against Cazoo Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz on March 16, Baldwin named his and Brown's partnership as the best backcourt in the EuroLeague. Nevertheless, he added that this statement wouldn't hold any weight if Maccabi don't make the playoffs.

How's that statement looking now, with Maccabi officially clinching the playoffs berth?

"I stand the same," Baldwin said without hesitation. "I mean, statistically, looking throughout the season, placement in the seedings, the abilities we two have, it's not close this year."

"We're playing very well, but we have a playoff run to go to now and finish out the seeding with the game against Real Madrid," he added.

Baldwin also emphasized that he and Brown share a good relationship from the start. It's not surprising knowing the background of how this duo was formed.

After Brown signed a contract with Maccabi, Baldwin called him to ask whether the two of them would work on the same team. After hearing a positive answer, Baldwin put the signature on a contract with Maccabi.

"We are just natural playmakers, really," Baldwin explained. "You see a lot of conflicts between different guys that play together; it was nothing like that [with us] from the start. It's been a very easy transition, and we are making it work."

Brown shared a familiar sentiment.

"We're kind of the same players, but with the opposites at the same time. He's more downhill, I'm more slow-paced. That benefits us more than anything because you don't know how to guard us," Brown told BasketNews Senior Staff Writer Donatas Urbonas. "Once he gets the ball, he's gone. That was what's been helping us a lot this whole year because teams don't really know how to defend us."

Wade Baldwin Lorenzo Brown Maccabi Tel Aviv
Wade Baldwin Lorenzo Brown Maccabi Tel Aviv
Credit Seffi Magriso/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

As a team, Maccabi could boast one of the best home records among all EuroLeague teams. Apart from Maccabi, only Baskonia have 14 home wins, but the Israeli powerhouse might improve its record with a win against Real Madrid on Thursday.

And even though Maccabi won't have a home-court advantage, Baldwin didn't seem too bothered about it.

"Either way, you have to go to Tel Aviv. Either way," he said.

Asked about which teams he would prefer to face in the playoffs series, Baldwin named every Top 4 member except Olympiacos Piraeus.

"Monaco, Barcelona, Madrid. One of those three," Baldwin made it short, without specifying why he made such selections.

Even though Maccabi avoided the tension of playing the last regular season game without knowing whether they'll have a spot in the Top 8, three teams – Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, Baskonia, and Zalgiris – fight for the remaining two tickets.

For the last month, everyone made calculations about how many wins might be enough to qualify for playoffs, checking head-to-head matchups and schedule difficulties.

Therefore, BasketNews even argued that Play-In Tournament would be a welcome addition to the EuroLeague.

However, Baldwin has a completely different idea.

"That's ridiculous. It's a cupcake. It should be a Top 8, and that's it," stated Maccabi guard.

Maccabi have their spot in the Top 8, and that's it. The best EuroLeague backcourt will find out their playoffs opponent soon and will try to make another step forward in their already successive campaign.

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Zalgiris Kaunas
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv
Field goals

Best players

Rolands  Smits
13 PTS
6/9 FG
0/0 FT
Jarell  Martin
12 PTS
4/8 FG
1/1 FT
Zalgiris Kaunas
Few players
Bonzie  Colson
Arnas  Butkevičius
4 As
0 TO
33 MIN
Wade  Baldwin IV
10 As
4 TO
33 MIN
Rolands  Smits
18 EFF
83% 2P%
33% 3P%
Josh  Nebo
14 EFF
57% 2P%
- 3P%