Maccabi Tel Aviv were blasted by Red Star Belgrade 92-76 in Serbia as their Euroleague record fell to 19-9, good for 5th place. The Yellow & Blue had clinched a playoff berth on Wednesday when they defeated Anadolu EFES but came into the game against Red Star lacking focus and energy as the hosts burst out of the gate and never looked back going 13/23 from 3-point range to take the win. Tyler Dorsey led Maccabi with 19 points while Scottie Wilbekin added 11 points in the loss while Kevin Punter and Billy Baron each dropped 22 points to pace Red Star in the victory.
1) The game at Red Star was the prototypical trap game for Maccabi. After a very emotional victory on Wednesday to clinch the club’s first trip to the playoffs since the 2014/15 season in front of a crowd of only 3,300 fans due to the Coronavirus there was no question there would be a letdown in energy. Add to that fact that Maccabi plays at Hapoel Jerusalem on Sunday night in a game that they will all want to be focused on with Amare Stoudemire making his first return back to his old stomping ground, the Yellow & Blue were in the wrong place at the wrong time. “They deserved to win because,” began coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos. “From the beginning, they played much better than us. They started the game shooting well from outside, and not only in the first period, with Baron leading the way. The first half, they made seven from outside. Although they played good, we were still close, within six points at halftime. But in the third period, we allowed them to score 30 points and I think it was obvious that we were not ready, mentally, to play a tough game.”
2) Aaron Jackson agreed with his coach as to why Maccabi just was never into the game, “We weren’t focused. From the start of the game, they got hot and made some big shots. We didn’t really come out and play our game. Coach did a good job on the game plan, and we had it down. But like I said, we were one step behind them every play. But this is something you can learn from. I hope we can. We can look at our offense, our defense, and figure it out. You need games like this before going to the playoffs. Hopefully, we can watch the film, get ready and get back.” Tyler Dorsey also talked about the game that was, “It was a rough game for us offensively and defensively we were just out of it. We will let it go and bounce back on Sunday.”
3) And on Sunday night Maccabi will definitely be ready to bounce back at Hapoel Jerusalem as Dorsey continued, “We will let it go and not over dwell on the loss and let the mistakes lead to the next game. We have to play like we played against Olympiacos where we offensively shared the ball.” Coach Sfairopoulos looked ahead to the Israeli Classico on Sunday night, “It’s an important game and we will be very focused as Jerusalem has a very good team. We have to keep our concentration and play with full energy. We know them and they know us. If will do the best things on the court we will win the game.”
With the Coronavirus at the forefront, Maccabi Tel Aviv may be forced to play the balance of their home games on the road in possibly Serbia, Greece or Cyprus, but the situation can change at the drop of a hat. Baskonia is next week with Zenit and Zalgiris after that. How the competition will finish with restrictions becoming tighter and tighter for travel between countries is anyone’s guess. Check out my analysis – What is the future of Israeli sports teams due to COVID-19 in European play & in the Holy Land?