Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Crvena Zvezda, Red Star Belgrade 89-75 after falling to Olympiacos on Tuesday to move their record to a game over .500, 10-9 in Euroleague play. The Yellow & Blue were in control throughout the contest as MVP Pierre Jackson scored 22 points including going 8/8 from the previous throw line. Alex Tyus dropped 15 big points with plenty of them coming from the air while DeAndre Kane played a masterpiece of both a defensive and offensive game as number 7 scores 14 points to help Maccabi to the win. Red Star struggled all night long as Milko Bjelica led the Serbian team in scoring with 13 points as Taylor Rochestie had 10 points along with 8 assists.
1) Maccabi came out with tons of energy, positive energy at Yad Eliyahu, energy that was missing against Olympiacos. High tempo, tight defense, aerial attacks, slam dunks and the like was exactly what the Yellow & Blue needed to get back on track to pick up a big home win. The players knew that they needed to play this way in order to make sure they neat Red Star, a team that they lost to in Belgrade back in October. Alex Tyus who put on quite the show commented about the team’s effort and looking ahead instead of looking back, “We came out and tried to play with energy. Everybody did a good job with that and I felt we did a good job playing together and it helped make the game easier for us. We’ve got to forget about the past and look ahead and we were able to do that tonight.”
2) The defense was key in the matchup and Maccabi was able to force Red Star into 16 turnovers well over their Euroleague leading 9.94 and that helped the Yellow & Blue out in a tremendous way. Coach Neven Spahija credited his team’s aggressiveness, “We were way more aggressive than the past few games and I want to give the players credit for that. They made 16 turnovers while we had only 8.” Norris Cole also spoke about the defense and how that will help them down the line, “I’m always happy to win. We brought a lot of energy, defended and played at our pace and we have a good chance to win when we do that. We need to play defense on a high level consistently in order to win. We brought it tonight. Defense is the key.” Number 30 also spoke highly of the fans as they helped the team to the victory, “Our crowd is great. The Gate does a great job keeping us in the game and there’s no place like home.” Deshaun Thomas echoed Cole’s sentiments, “We played good defense, we were home and had great energy from the crowd.”
3) DeAndre Kane had a tremendous game both defensively, which is his bread and butter but also showed what he can do on the offensive side of the ball, especially in a high tempo offense. Coach Sphaija talked about his contribution, “DeAndre did a great job. I’m so happy. He suffered. He became a specialist to play defense on the opponent’s best players and did a great job today.” Michael Roll also alluded to why the team was able to play the way they did against Red Star, “We’re a great team on the break and we have great wings and bigs that can play above the basket.” The former UCLA guard also spoke about the defense in comparison to what was in Greece, “It’s very good to bounce back and get a W. We had good energy and we capitalized on their mistakes. It wasn’t the case of a better defensive effort, but we did it better. The effort was there (against Olympiacos) but we didn’t execute well.
One of the highlights from the game was Maccabi going 21/24 from the free throw line after entering into the contest in last place in FT % with 67.34%. I asked Coach Spahija how he felt about his side shooting so well from the charity stripe, “I think the better question is how do I feel when I watch from the sideline and miss the free throws and can’t say anything. If you want to play like a top level team you have to make your shots, tough shots, 3-pointers, contested shots and definitely free throws. It’s such a big advantage for the other team when you miss free throws. I was so happy when I saw that we had 87% which I think was the season high. Hopefully we can continue.” Actually Coach, there were two games where Maccabi shot for a higher percentage, at home against EFES 8/9 88.9% which was a blowout loss and versus Olympiacos at home on Gameday 3 13/14 92.9% which also was a defeat. And who is the team’s best free throw shooter? Pierre Jackson who raised his season % to 86.8% after going 8/8 against Red Star helping him to a 22 point MVP performance.