Double Week: Even looks to Ziv and Thomas to make difference for Maccabi with Euroleague playoff hopes on the line

Mar 21, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv begins a Euroleague Double Week as they welcome in Milano and Real Madrid on Tuesday and Thursday respectively as the Yellow & Blue will look to solidify their postseason hopes. While Avi Even’s club currently sits in 13th place with a 12-14 record should the three Russian teams be disqualified from the competition and it will be determined that CSKA Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg and UNIC Kazan can not continue for the balance of the season, Maccabi’s record will move to 11-11 good for 7th place with 6 games remaining.

However, should the Israeli team have any dreams about punching their ticket to the playoffs, they will need to find a way to record favorable results over the next few days starting against Ettore Messina’s club on Tuesday.

אבי אבן

Avi Even – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

“We have a great challenge at home playing against one of the best teams in Europe,” Maccabi interim coach Avi Even said. “Our focus is towards the final 8 and it will be a very tough battle and we are looking forward to it. We have shown we can beat the best teams in Europe on our home court. I believe that there will be electricity in the arena and we will all be able to feel that with our amazing fans.”

Keenan Evans also knows what it will take for Maccabi to defeat Milano, “We really had a good game against Galil as we head into the first game of the double week. It’s a really big game and we are in a playoff race as everyone is fighting to get in. Last time we played in Milan they got the best of us so this is a revenge game. We need the fans backing us with good energy to gets the win on Tuesday.”

Keenan Evans – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

One of the plusses that Even can take from this past week is a two game Israeli league winning streak which saw his players come out with the right energy and play positive basketball in a blowout win over Hapoel Galil Elyon.

“I’m happy we brought the right energy to the Galil game and it began with the defense. We stopped their pick and roll and we controlled the rebound which we translated into easy points. All of our efforts right now are going towards the Milano game and we are preparing in earnest. We have had a lot of ups and downs this season and after two wins we want to take that positive energy into this contest,” Even explained.

Iftach Ziv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Two players who could play a central role this week are Israeli Iftach Ziv and Khyri Thomas who is one of the newer recruits on the squad joining the team a couple of months ago. With John Dibartolomeo having been ill and the terrific games that both players put in against Galil, Even should have a level of confidence in their abilities this coming week.

“Iftach was very focused on both sides of the court and that is what we want to see from him. It’s not easy to play for Maccabi and slowly but surely he is improving. I’m very happy from what we have seen from him in this game. My goal and that of the professional staff is to see that every player can give the same minutes both in the Israeli league and in the Euroleague. Each one at their own pace.”

As for Thomas, the guard himself spoke about how he sees his first couple of months with the team along with how he views the Euroleague, “Absolutely it (the Galil game) was my best game. I’ve been hard on myself and I want to prove myself. I put some pressure on myself and we took some losses that we shouldn’t have. Everything in the Euroleague is closer to detail and every possession counts. You have to have that pride and grit. I’m enjoying my time at Maccabi.”

Khyri Thomas – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Derrick Williams who has also played a couple of solid Israeli league contests talked about how he sees Thomas’s progression in yellow-and-blue, “He’s coming along. He’s one of the players that we have that can do a lot of different things on both sides of the ball. His defense is excellent, on ball defense and he can shoot, his IQ is great and knows how to play the game of basketball. He knows what coach wants from him and he’s getting better.”

Even as well looked at how the guard has adjusted so far with the team, “He has a lot of positive attributes defensively and his tough mentality as well. It’s not simple to have a new player come in and he has had ups and downs. I believe that he will give us plenty as we continue on.”

Maccabi will certainly want to continue on with this mini-winning streak and position themselves where they can punch their ticket to the continental postseason for the first time since 2015.

Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“We have been missing was a win streak,” Williams said ahead of the game. “We haven’t had one since the start of the season. We are all excited, the energy is much better and winning cures a lot of things.”

Keenan Evans spoke about what he sees as the key to victory and what chances he feels that Maccabi can make the playoffs, “We have to look at ourselves and focus on ourselves, our aggressiveness and how we start the game and set the tone. If we do that it will go into many facets of our game. We have always believed that we are a playoff team and we are still at the borderline whether or not they are here. It is really a boost and there is still a lot of games to play.”

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