Playing like a team: Maccabi downs PAO 84-75

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Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Panathinaikos 84-75 to win their 4th game in a row and improve their overall record to 9-11 with ten games remaining in the Euroleague’s regular season. The Yellow & Blue had the upper hand throughout the evening as Angelo Caloiaro had a tremendous performance with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Scottie Wilbekin scored 13 points in the win. Nick Calathes recorded a double double for the Greek squad with 14 points and 10 assists as Matt Lojeski also scored 14 points in the lossץ

Prior to the game a special ceremony marked International Holocaust Day as 11,000 fans held up #WeRemember signs and sang a powerful rendition of Hatikva which you cans see right here:

Maccabi and Panathinaikos went neck and neck over the first ten minutes as the visitor’s took a 17-16 lead thanks to Calathes’s 7 points while Johnny O’Bryant answered for the Yellow & Blue with 5 points of his own. Jake Cohen drilled home a pair of triples while Alex Tyus helped the host’s to 6 points as Maccabi grabbed a five point 40-35 lead at halftime.

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The host’s came out of the break and ran off an 11-4 run to take a 51-39 lead as Caloiaro scored 7 points and Wilbekin dropped 6 points extending Maccabi’s lead to 62-54 after three quarters. Ioannis Papapetrou pulled Panathinaikos to within 6 points 70-64 with 4:20 left in the contest but Caloiaro’s nine points in the final frame handed the Yellow & Blue the 9 point 84-75 victory.

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3-Pointers
1) Angelo Caloiaro was a beast. Plain & Simple. He was dominant all over the floor from hitting key shots, to pulling down important rebounds both of the offensive and defensive glass as well as drawing 5 fouls two which were huge charges and he took hits in the paint by Panathinaikos players. Add to that his 33 efficiency rating and you have one heck of a game which makes one forget abut his dismal 1/8 Derby performance earlier in the week and understand the magnitude of the game against Panathinaikos compared to an Israeli league contest against Hapoel. The Sports Rabbi caught up with Caloiaro in the locker room following the game, “It was a big game for us especially at home; we came out to play hard and we got the win. I always try to stay aggressive and do the little things. Just try to hustle and play hard. The fans were amazing and they get me going, I want to thank them. Crash the glass hard, be in the right places for the rebounds and just help the team win.” Scottie Wilbekin had high praise for his teammate, “Angelo did a great job getting is second chance opportunities on offensive rebounds and coming up with stops when we needed them and just playing hard.” While Jake Cohen also chimed in with some kind words, “He was amazing and deserves every credit and carried us on his back tonight.”

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2) The accolades continued to pour in for Caloiaro as Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos noted that the forward had a great game, but everyone across the board from the starters to the bench players were a key part to the victory, “Angelo is very talented. When I arrived here I placed him in the small forward position and I felt Maccabi needed to have a big lineup. I’m not surprised by his performance as he can come out of the dark very strong and be positive for the team as he brings a lot of intangibles. We have a lot of talented players and it could be a different player every game that will step up.” And that’s the key, that there are a lot of talented players on the team and anyone can step up on any occasion, all for one and one for all. “All the players gave maximum for the team and everyone from the bench put one brick to build this wall for the win tonight,” Sfairopoulos continued. Cohen also was a key player in the game and although he only played 4 minutes he drained two he 3’s in the second quarter to create separation, “It feels really good when the ball goes in. I got some open looks and coach and my teammates always give me confidence to take those shots and I’m really happy they went in tonight.” The forward continued, “Zoos (Yovel Zoosman) was the only guy to not score but he did all around things on the court defense, rebounds assists. He was terrific. Everyone that came in did something positive. There were no weak links and that makes us a very hard team to beat.”

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3) Coach Sfairopolous also noted the key contributions by Zoosman against Panathinaikos, “We are all happy for Angelo but we have to be happy for Zoosman as he stopped Calathes. He played 23 minutes and had the best plus/minus (+15). I always tell the players I don’t care how many points you score. You can score 20 points and are good and score no points and also be the same good. This the meaning of a team. We play like a team and have a good atmosphere like a good family. Johnny O’Bryant also spoke about the team effort being a key to the recent success, “It was an amazing team effort against a really good team. They were hungry for a win and we were hungry for a win and the crowd was amazing. Every win matters and we have to just keep piling them up. We played defense. We knew they would come out and fight hard and we had to defend our home court.” Wilbekin also commented on how the team continues to improve, “Another win and it feels like we are getting better every day and that’s the most important thing. Playing as a team, moving the ball and playing unselfish are the keys. We have to take it one game at a time and there are still a few games left so we have to stay focused and just keep getting better.”


Overtime
Rick Pitino is a basketball coaching god there’s no arguing that fact. But he also knows the limitations of his team, “We just can’t shoot. Shooting cures a multitude of sins. We have what we have and we just have to improve.” Without shooters, some of which are unavailable due to injury like Keith Langford just makes it hard to win. Pitino noted that all of the stats were fault close expect shots from beyond the arc which went in Maccabi’s favor 9/26 to 4/22. One of the things I find most interesting about Pitino is the value his places on “deflections”. You rarely hear the term but it’s something that he places huge emphasis on and for good reason, “If you get 35 deflections per game either in the NBA or in college you win over 90% of your games. Steals, blocked shots, 50/50 balls, actual deflections and tips from behind. My great teams averaged 42 deflections per game and we got 18 tonight. It’s a work in progress. The guys give me everything they have.” Just by adding blocks and steals Maccabi was ahead 10-3 in that category. It was truly an honor to have the privilege and opportunity to have a legend like Rick Pitino in Israel and it’s not something that we can take for granted. “I’m only here for a short sabbatical,” Pitino said, but boy are we lucky to benefit from that!

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And 1 & And Some
A) Tarik Black was fantastic against Panathinaikos and that goes well beyond the 9 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes. It was his defense, his placement and position on the floor and not picking up a foul until very late in the game. For a player that had trouble all year long in that category, Black has been terrific over the past few games and the team is winning, Coach Sfairopoulos praised his center’s efforts, “I think that Tarik is in game shape and he understood after 3-4 months that he’s been in Europe as to how the game is played and he’s a big part for us on both sides of the ball. He understands basketball really well and I’m really happy with his performance. I look forward to having him like this for the rest of the season.” And he will need him to play like this the rest of the season if Maccabi wants to make waves into the playoffs.

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B) The bench was phenomenal. Other than Cohen’s contributions, Alex Tyus scored 8 points and grabbed 4 rebounds for an efficiency rating of 14 in 14 minutes, Kendrick Ray was solid in 8 minutes as was John DiBartolomeo, Michael Roll (9p) and of course Yovel Zoosman.

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C) Jeremy Pargo made his long awaited Euroleague debut and although he looked a it rusty he played 17 minutes which will definitely help him get back into game shape.

D) Scottie Wilbekin had a solid game with 13 points and only took a one shot from 2 while he went 3/8 from 3.

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E) Nick Calathes was good but not as good as PAO needed him to be. The veteran guard was still picked up a double double but Maccabi limited the damage that he was able to do on the floor.

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F) The two new PAO recruits, Sean Kilpatrick and Adrien Payne were ineffective for Pitino scoring a combined 7 points in 27 minutes. Like Pitino said, it’s a work in progress.

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E) Next up is Baskonia who will be without Toko Shengelia and Jayson Granger. It’s never easy to play in Vitoria but this is a massively important game to make it into the top 8 as they are one of the teams battling with Maccabi for one of the last two spots. It should be a good game.