1) Tyler Dorsey put on a show for the ages to knock out Hapoel Tel Aviv and help Maccabi advance to the Final 4 and a date with Hapoel Gilboa Galil. You may recall that Dorsey was unable to play for a good portion of the post-corona Israeli league due to having to spend time in quarantine after being in contact with someone in his building who had COVID-19. Once back, the Oregon product still needed to get his game going after frustrating performances in the first two contests. But with Scottie Wilbekin out suspended and unavailable to play in game 3, the guard raised his game to wipe out his 19 points over the first 2 games to notch 26 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists for an efficiency rating of 38 in the decisive matchup. Dorsey willed his team to the win and was a cut above almost everyone else on the court. However, the former Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies guard didn’t want to look at his showing and credited the team and the tough nosed defense that took the win, “Every minute, every guy stepped up for us but it’s the defense that got us the win. We just had to play hard.”
Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos echoed his star’s words, “Without so many ball handlers it’s not so easy and we only allowed 27 points in the second half and the key was our defense. Tyler had to stay in quarantine for ten days so it’s normal not to be in great shape. I think he did a great job and showed up when we needed him. But today we won as a team. All of the players had a great game even the ones who played a few seconds. They fought for the win.” Sfairopoulos was totally into the game from the tip-off as he whipped off his jacket that he usually wears throughout the 40 minutes and became one of the warriors for a short Maccabi roster with oodles of injured players. That simple fact was not ignored by the media and the coach spoke about his involvement on the sidelines, “Everybody was ready to fight including myself. We gave a big fight and we deserved the win. We showed our spirit and our character.”
2) It was interesting to hear Dorsey talk about some of the issues the Yellow & Blue had with Hapoel Tel Aviv, especially their defense schemes which threw the team off time and time again. Coach Ioannis Kastritis held Maccabi to 67 and 72 points in the first two games which in itself is a victory against such a high powered offense and credit has to go to the Reds for being able to implement it. “The defense they played is defense I have never seen before,” Dorsey stated. I found it interesting that he also spoke about the fact that it took a couple of games to figure out how to deal with the Reds swarming and pressing defense that almost knocked Maccabi out of the series. I asked Sfairopoulos about how they finally were able to find a way to circumvent Hapoel’s plans on D, “We tried to play more simple against the press and bring the ball up and not force in order to keep the rhythm of the game. Secure the ball and keep the rhythm of the game. That’s what was key.”
3) Hapoel played above and beyond expectations in this series and like I said before, Kastritis deserves a ton of credit, a boatload in fact. He was able to change the culture of the team, convince his players to leave it all out on the court and also help Yam Madar rise to the occasion and increase his stock ten fold. I asked him what he felt was the biggest challenge that he faced coming back to play after the coronavirus break, “The biggest challenge was to gain our chemistry back, as soon as possible and at the same time to try to keep our players healthy and it was very demanding physically and mentally. All the players stayed for 2 months in quarantine, that was a great challenge to deal with and having a new team for three months without practicing and in 20 days of practice you have to be ready and win games. The league was very competitive. That was the challenge that made us better.” You have to absolutely gotta love Kastritis.
— Winner League (@WinnerLeague) July 23, 2020
Finally, I’ve got to write a bit about Deni Avdija in what could have turned out to be his last game for Maccabi Tel Aviv. What can you say about the future NBA star? He was so locked in it was scary. Sure he made some mistakes when he was pressured and had to handle the ball more than usual due to Scottie Wilbekin being out, but boy did he put aside his game 2 disastrous performance with one for the ages. My colleague Moshe Halickman wrote about his showing to be Jordan-esque, but to me he was simply Deni, being Deni. 22 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and an efficiency rating of 30 was just spectacular and even more so after six turnovers. After last game, Sfairopoulos was asked about Avdija’s performance and he just said that these things happen, players have tough games and they aren’t machines. After game 3 he had this to say about the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery prospect, “Tonight he performed to his level and it’s not easy to play a different role when he had the ball more in his hands than usual.”
* You wouldn’t believe it, but Jake Cohen had Maccabi’s highest Plus/Minus with a +22. He struggled yet again form the field going 2/9 but his presence allowed other players to get into the game and opened up the floor.
* Angelo Caloiaro played all of the 40 minutes but 4 seconds. For a player that shouldn’t even be wearing the Yellow & Blue, he has become the unsung hero of the squad.
* Jordan Davis (3/10 from the field) and Sek Henry (2/13 from 3) didn’t shoot well to say the least as Hapoel went an abysmal 7/33 from deep. It’s very hard to win when you miss the hoop.
* Yam Madar scored 18 points and added 6 assists but coughed up the ball 7 times. But all in all. Madar showed throughout the series what he’s made of and how he should be considered by NBA teams in the October draft.