Maccabi Tel Aviv began the Ioannis Sfairopoulos era off on the wrong foot falling in Turkey 90-77 to Anadolu Efes as their Euroleague record fell to 1-7. Johnny O’Bryant led the yellow-and-blue scorers with 19 points while Alex Tyus added 12 points and Scottie Wilbekin chipped in with 10 points and 7 assists in the defeat. The Istanbul based squad featured a well balanced attack as six players scored in double digits with former Bnei Hasharon and Hapoel Holon forward Bryant Dunston scoring 14 points to lead the way to the victory.
Sfairopoulos, who joined the squad in Istanbul ahead of the game had little time to work with the team but Maccabi played a tough first quarter keeping it close down by only two points at 16-14. The yellow-and-blue showed defensive promise but struggled offensively as the host’s took a 38-31 at the half, however it was all downhill from there for the visitor’s as Anadolou wore down Maccabi for the 13-point win.
1) Coach Sfairopoulos is a defensive minded coach as he will want to put an emphasis on that aspect of the game from the get go. Maccabi may have played well on the defensive end in the first quarter but as time ticked on the defense lapsed and lapsed even more. The new boss spoke about his plans on the defensive end of the floor, “We started the game really focused defensively. We knew Efes is a great offensively-minded team, scoring a lot of points on its home court and that is why we tried from the beginning to be very aggressive on defense, and we succeeded in the first period to control the game with our good defense, although offensively we were not as good as we wanted to be.” Euroleague basketball games are 40 minutes and just ten minutes of quality D just won’t cut it.
2) With Maccabi sitting at 1-7, yes 1-7, they will need a miracle to make it into the playoffs of the Euroleague and with 22 games left they’ll need to win 15(!) to make it. Unfortunately I just don’t see how that’s going to happen. Is the continental campaign for all intents and purposes over? Michael Roll spoke about the game that was, “I think overall we came out and played really aggressive, I just think it came down to simple mistakes again. We committed too many fouls and put them on the free throw line, we gotta set our pick-and-roll defense a little better, we just got to regroup and keep fighting and stay together. That’s all. We just got to be smart.” I think that Roll kind of wrapped the season us with a nice bow as to what the problems have been from day one this season. Simple mistakes, too many fouls, setting up pick and roll defense better, regroup and keep fighting. As the season continues to slip away it’s going to get tougher and tougher to Cote is to fight and battle game in and game. I fee, we’ve seen this movie 2-3 years ago, ah because we did.
3) Production. Maccabi’s production or lack of it from some players has been awful. Angelo Caloiaro, 2 points in 26 minutes. Michael Roll 0 points in 11 minutes, John Dibartolomeo 0 points 11 minutes. Jake Cohen 2 points in 9 minutes. Coach Sfairopoulos needs to find a way to get all of these players in the position to succeed. Getting them clean shots, getting them quality shots, getting them a real chance to score, because all of them can and they’ve done so in the past. That’s one if the challenges ahead.
Maccabi has Fenerbahce in Thursday and they are currently 7-1 while Maccabi is 1-7. Another tough match ahead, but the ice caveat is, is that Maccabi has played Fener tough and well and have beaten them at home in the recent past. Will that help Maccabi? Perhaps, but what will really help the Yellow & Blue is just better fundamental basketball and Coach Sfairopoulos needs to instill basics and fast. I don’t want to say that this is going to be a long season, but the way it’s shaping up tells me that we’re in for a rough one…