The trap game. Oh yes, one of the favorite games for every coach. A game that on paper should be an easy win, but for one reason or another the preferred team gets complacent and loses what should have been a certain win. There was no way that coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos was going to allow his team to let up against a subpar Alba squad and fall into the trap of the trap game. “I want to congratulate our players not because of the win, not because of the game, not because of their performance, but because they were really, really concentrated to play a difficult game, because this game looks like an easy one now, but to play this way, with this determination, concentration after a winning streak is not easy and this is why I want to give our players big credit. I think that we respect ALBA a lot and this is why played a really good game.” Maccabi could have fallen into the trap, but Sfairpoulos made sure that they wouldn’t and really he deserves the credit for that.
2) Tarik Black has had an interesting season thus far. Some games he has trouble from the line but will pull down tons of rebounds, while other games he has problems inside but still manages to score oodles of points. Against Alba, everything seemed to click the right way for Black. Whether it was thundering dunks (which he was warned by the referee not to hang onto the rim too long) or his free throws (5/6) or his presence inside both offensively where he scored from inside the paint (4/4) or on the defensive end (4 steals), Black was a monster in the 15 plus minutes he was on the court for the Yellow & Blue. “I’m very happy,” Black explained in the lockerroom. “It’s amazing that we protected our house and now we want to get some wins on the road. We do what we have to do to win games. It’s a blessing the 4 steals and I’m very thankful for that. Next game it could be points or rebounds or all of them together. Everybody on this team plays the best basketball and if we do that we will be pretty darn good as a team.” Coach Sfairpoulos has only praise for his big man, “Tarik is a big guy that I like to have as he is a hard worker and is motivated. He is tough on the court defending including the pick and roll, the rims and the low post. He’s always defending inside.”
3) Maccabi continued to roll with yet another Euroleague win and are slowly but surely turning Yad Eliyahu back into the fortress it was for many years where the opposing team had almost no chance of winning. Is the Yellow & Blue playing their best basketball right now or can they continue to improve and use the past few weeks as a stepping stone going forward, “We haven’t got to our best basketball yet,” said Black. Tyler Dorsey also felt that the team is still a ways away from playing their best, “We have only played one month of the season. There are still 7/8 months to play for the rest of the season. We have plenty of time to go.” Elijah Bryant also chimed in on the matter at hand, “We have a long way to go. We still have stretches where we get stagnant, but we are playing very well right now.” Finally Sfairpoulos was clear as to how he wants to see his team as the season continues to move along, “I don’t want to make a glamorous statement. We are very humble and low profile team which fights every game and this is how it will go until the end. We are a team that is fighting on the court and want to play better. The players have roles and we want to continue this and use our actions and not words.”
John Dibartolomeo had one of those games as he topped his previous Euroleague high in points with 19. He drilled home threes all game long and entered the contest for the first time near the end of the first quarter instead of the usual second or third. It looks like the coach really values his captain and he paid him back for his faith in him very, very nicely, but of course DiBartolomeo was his usual humble self, “The main thing is we got a big win at home. We were able to break away in the second half. But we haven’t accomplished anything yet and have some road games coming up.”
A) Tyler Dorsey had another excellent game for Maccabi since being registered for the Israeli League and allows him more playing time where he can hone his trade. “It’s a great win for us, we took care of home court and now when heading on the road. We executed the game plan the starters started well tonight in oppose to the last games we struggled at the start and they set the tone. We had a lot of energy.” Sfairpoulos once again gave his insight on Dorsey’s transformation, “Tyler really adjusted to the team and had a hard time just playing in the Euroleague. I couldn’t push him in just the Euroleague and when we registered him for the Israeli League it opened up for options.”
B) The Yellow & Blue had a solid night from the line going 21/25 which is a much better number than what we have seen in the recent past. I asked the coach if there was any special magic, “We have been practicing free throws the same way all season long. Sometimes it’s a matter of pressure and today it all went the right way and we shot well from the line.” Alba coach Aito Garcia Reneses also spoke about the what he saw as being a big part of Maccabi’s win, “I want to congratulate Maccabi. They played an excellent game and we couldn’t compete with them. There is nothing else to say; they played with a lot of intensity, scoring every time they were open, including free throws, with a better percentage than in the previous EuroLeague games. It shows that they are improving and that they are playing very, very well.” It’s always tough to see a team leave freebies on the line and in some cases it can cost them the game; this wasn’t to be the case this time around.