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A Great Win – Maccabi Tel Aviv

Courtesy Euroleague.net

Maccabi Tel Aviv pulled off the upset victory over Fenerbahce 81-79 thanks to Sylven Landesberg’s last second shot that found its way to the bottom of the basket. The shooting guard ended the night with 22 points going 4/4 from beyond the arc while Diamon Simpson had a double-doible with 14 points, 12 rebounds to go along with 5 steals.

The Rundown
Maccabi Tel Aviv began the game poorly going down by ten points after ten minutes 25-15, but came back strong in the second frame outscoring the Turkish team 23-16 to narrow the gap to just 3-points after twenty minutes, 41-38. The status quo ruled the 3rd frame as both teams scored 18 points a piece, however, Sylven Landesberg, scored the final basket on the last play of the game on an off balance runner that bounced around the rim and finally dropped in, good for 2 points and the win.

3-Pointers
1) What a game! Maccabi put in a great effort against a postseason bound Fenerbahce after being eliminated from Euroleague playoff contention last week in a loss to Efes in Turkey. With pride to play for, the Yellow & Blue did exactly that, playing with heart, passion and a ton of pride as they represented the team with honor and respect. After blowing out Hapoel Tel Aviv earlier in the week in the Derby, Maccabi started the game off sluggishly, but got into the swing of things in the second quarter and never looked back. Going down by 6-points late in the game 73-67 with a chance for Fener to pull away, Yogev Ohayon hit a clutch 3-pointer to keep the contest within reach. Every time the hosts put Maccabi to the test, the visitors came up big, either with a defensive stop or a big basket, but none was bigger than Landesberg’s to win it as time expired. A great win.

2) Speaking of Landesberg, have we finally seen the breakout we’ve all been waiting for in Europe? Will we see him play like this again? I believe so. He’s always had the potential, but the coaches never trusted him because of his “defensive liabilities”. He may not be an all star defender but that is something that he can continue to work on and improve, but being a scorer is something that can’t really be taught; and he’s a scorer par excellence. Bagatskis gave Landesberg over 30 minutes of playing time coming off of the bench and he rewarded his coach’s faith in him by scoring 22 points and adding 3 assists. Speaking of faith, how about Gal Mekel and Yogev Ohayon. 5 points and 5 assists with 1 turnover for the former and 10 points, 6 assists and no turnovers for the latter. Not bad, not bad at all, considering where they both were earlier in the season. I couldn’t be happier for the two of them.

3) Maccabi actually should have won this game by more than 2-points as they were absolutely atrocious from the line going 7/17. 10(!) missed free throws, YIKES! The main culprit on the evening was Diamon Simpson with a 2/7 evening from the charity stripe. But I think we can cut him some slack as the forward recorded a double-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 5 steals for an index rating of 26. Number 5 played 30+ minutes and has paid dividends since joining the Yellow & Blue with some quality performances, earning MVP honors less than two weeks ago in the win over Milan. I hope we see him begin to play in the Israeli league as he has been a gem so far and can be a big help as Maccabi looks to bring home the domestic title.

Overtime
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I like coach Ainars Bagatskis. He’s a good basketball man, intelligent, bright and a player’s coach. He’s gotten plenty out of this squad that no one else before him had. From Joe Alexander to Yogev Ohayon, to Gal Mekel and Victor Rudd, he’s been able to mold the team into just that, a team. When he first took over at the end of December, I recall him talking about how it was just preseason as he had to see for himself what he had to work with and that certainly took time. Then there were the injuries, the Sonny Weems episode and the ability to just jell as a team. He is 5-8 in Euroleague play, but has won the State Cup and of course will contend for the Israeli League title. Will Bagatskis continue or not has been a topic du jour, but if it was me, I’d give him a shot. I want to see him in charge for a full season, beginning to end. Is that too much to ask for? There are players he can certainly keep and then there are those that need to be replaced. Does Maccabi want to start from scratch yet again? Give Bagatskis a shot at it, I don’t think we’ll be disappointed.

Ainars Bagatskis, Head Coach Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
“I think that means a lot for our team because with this kind of win, we become stronger. We played like a team. We missed some players, some perimeter players, but we became bigger at other positions and that gave us aggressiveness from outside with aggressiveness inside. That gave us the result. We are happy… It was really good teamwork. We did not hesitate. I told the players before the game that if we decide something, we must do it because Fenerbahce has experience and uses it. We just did our job.”

Sylven Landesberg, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
“I felt good the whole game, and the players kept telling me to stay aggressive. On the last possession, Yogi [Ohayon] got the rebound and when I got the ball, I knew I won’t have time to pass. I stepped back, took the shot and it bounced on the rim, felt like for an hour. On the second bounce I thought it would bounce out. I was praying it would go in because I was dead tired and didn’t want it to go to overtime. Then when it went in I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it.”

Diamon Simpson, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
“Our team is really good, we worked hard in practice and kept believing when we were down. Personally, I just play as hard as I can and don’t think about how good the other guys are… In Sylvan’s last shot, on the first bounce I was thinking – overtime. And on the second bounce I thought it might get in. And then in the third, I just started to shout.”