All for one and one for all: Maccabi Tel Aviv continues to mold into a team while Jerusalem struggles

Oct 23, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Jerusalem led to kick off the game, but it was all Maccabi Tel Aviv after that as the Yellow & Blue just dominated a Reds squad that was not even close to competing in the Israeli Classico.

Oren Amiel’s team was just nowheres to be found all night long going down early by 6-points after ten minutes and then before they could blink it was 37-22 early on in the second quarter and it was game, set, match. Whatever Jerusalem tried to do just wasn’t enough against Scottie Wilbekin and company as Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team cruised to the 24-point, 104-80 victory.

The visitors were just overwhelmed from the get go and were never, ever in the game. Both Amiel and Kaiser gates blew off the loss and chalked it up to a number of reasons why they performed as poorly as they did. However, Jerusalem can never, ever look the way they did against Maccabi where they were blown out of the building.

“The game didn’t go our way and we have to look ahead to the Champions League game on Wednesday and keep our heads straight. We gave a great group of guys and we wanted to win but I don’t think it will be a problem to keep going forward,” Gates said.

Amiel also spoke about focussing on their European game in Poland against BM SLAM which is a critical must win continental clash after losing their first two games with both being at home to boot.

“Right now our focus is on Europe and Thon didn’t play now but we felt that Gates could play good defense. We are really looking at Wednesday and we didn’t want to play the way we did today but there was rationale behind our game today.”

Oren Amiel – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“This was the first time for a number of players to play here at Yad Eliyahu against a Euroleague team and they showed that. We weren’t good enough but it’s at the start of the season and Maccabi deservedly won,” Amiel explained.

That’s all true, but Jerusalem just can’t look the way they did as the team’s CEO Guy Harel observed the action from the stands with fans upstairs in section 4 while he and owner Eyal Homsky met up after the game to discuss what I’m sure wasn’t their dinner plans after an embarrassing loss.

Eyal Homsky & Guy Harel – Photo Credit: Moshe Halickman

Is Oren Amiel the right man for the Jerusalem job? That remains to be seen but the results this far would indicate that he’s having a tough time.

On the other side of the coin, Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos was thrilled with the way his team performed in league action after last week’s disappointing defeat at Hapoel Gilboa Galil. The Yellow & Blue did everything right as the bench boss explained, save for the offensive rebounds.

“We won all the periods and scored 52 points in each half,” Sfairopoulos began. “We were balanced as well as our outside and inside shooting. The only issue was the offensive rebounds. I am very happy how serious and committed we came into this game. We felt the fans like a Euroleague game.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Sfairopoulos was also very happy with how the players who did not dress or play much in the team’s last Euroleague game this past Thursday against Panathinaikos performed when given the opportunity to do so.

“I liked how the players who didn’t play a lot in the Euroleague did like Oz Blayzer, Jake Cohen and John Dibartolomeo. I love all of my players, we need everyone and they will have a chance in Europe if they keep playing like this.”

“I have 15 good players who are ready to help and it’s tough as to who to keep out and who to keep in. It’s tough who to play. As a coach I love my players and I have a relationship with them like my kids as their father. To help them, to support them and to be critical and sometimes I have to say no. They have to fight and if they get everything easy they won’t fight for their lives. This is how I treat my players with love and respect and sometimes I am tough.”

It was an easy day at the office for Maccabi and they made it easy because they worked hard on defense which was something that they did not do well in Gan Ner. The Yellow & Blue held Jerusalem to only 38.6% from the field with Sean Kilpatrick going 3/10, Jalen Adams 2/8 and Retin Obasohan 4/15 in what was night to forget and forget quickly.

Keenan Evans – Photo Credit:

Sfairopoulos spoke in length about what it takes to play tough defense, which in fact is usually more difficult to play than offense.

“Defense is habit. You won’t play good defense if you don’t practice and our players want to and they do practice. We still have to have better cooperation. But to play well on defense we need to have the energy to play defense. It requires people’s high energy and sometimes the players don’t have that energy. We have to have habits and the mental will. Maybe on some days our energy won’t be enough but we will try with our practices and commitment and play as best as we can on the defensive end of the court.”

All in all, Maccabi did what they needed to and they dominated an overmatched Jerusalem squad that has to not only be better but perhaps more balanced as they are still struggling without proper ball handlers and centers.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit:

Both teams are a work in process with each squad having a big European week ahead as Maccabi will play Zalgiris and Barcelona at home while Jerusalem has a make it or break it game on the road.

With every victory, Maccabi is going to get better and better while they will hope that the defeat at Gilboa was just a hiccup on the way Oz Blayzer said, “There’s no question that the loss in Gilboa shouldn’t have happened and we learnt from that. We didn’t come into that game ready to go and we spoke about how we have to go into every game prepared and not be complacent. We have to show from the beginning of the game that we are serious.”

And that’s exactly what they did. The team played together like a unit no matter who was on the floor and as Sfairopoulos mentioned, “This is our secret because we are family. It’s the environment of Maccabi and every one on the club. We are like the three musketeers, it’s all for one and one for all.”

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