Did you know that the backcourt duo of Tyler Dorsey and Chris Jones hadn’t played since last Tuesday, before New Year’s day as they were left out of the Israeli roster for three domestic games against Holon, Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv? Well, if you would have watched them rip apart Alba Berlin you would have never, ever known in a million years as the pair went off at the end of the first quarter leading Maccabi to a 24-2 run into the second frame. Jones and Dorsey or Dorsey and Jones were terrific playing with each other and perhaps this needs to be the pairing for the club the rest of the way with Scottie Wilbekin teaming up with Elijah Bryant. But then that leaves Wilbekin without a true point guard next to him and that has been an ongoing story since he signed with the club a three years ago.
It seems that both Dorsey and Jones can play their best and most productive basketball away from Wilbekin and if that’s the case maybe that is how they need to play going forward. Another statistic that must be looked at is how many games Maccabi wins and loses when Wilbekin doesn’t control the game and lead the team in scoring; it’s plenty. When Wilbekin scores 15 or more points Maccabi’s record is an abysmal 2-10. Whoa, that’s not a pretty picture and as much as Coach Sfairpoulos wants to say that the club will live and die with Scottie, he’s got to really look at the numbers. As they say, stats don’t lie.
“I want to congratulate Chris Jones and Tyler Dorsey who were out for a week and didn’t play in the Israeli games but they kept their rhythm and were very crucial for the win,” said coach Sfairopoulos as he praised the duo following the game. Dorsey was very happy with his 25 point showing where he barely missed a shot going 3/3 from two and 5/7 from three as he has been inconsistent for most of the Euroleague season thus far scoring in double digits in only 8 games this campaign. Perhaps this is the turning point for the former NBA guard Dorsey, “You hit a couple of shots and the basket gets bigger and bigger but I give a lot of credit to my teammates finding me off screens, finding me in catch and shoot spots where I just have to step into them like taking those practice shots. After a while when you get a rhythm it feels good.”
The key to the win was defense without a doubt as Maccabi was focussed and locked in all evening long using the last three Israeli games as a road map as to what they need to do to make their lives easier and to notch the win. The players bought in to what Sfairopoulos has been preaching and it worked like a charm as good defense always translates into good offense, “We played good defense. With good defense, we stopped their speed of execution. We had good defensive transition and didn’t allow them to run.” Tyler Dorsey agreed that coming out string on the defensive end was crucial for the team in order to take the victory, “Defensively we were locked in in the first half and did the same in second half and stuck to our tactics. Every game is a must win for us as we try to climb back into the playoffs.” Chris Jones felt the same way, “We played hard as a team and executed well offensively and defensively. We were just a more aggressive team and took advantage of turnovers. We did a great job taking care of the ball but we made some slight mistakes and slowed us down. However, we picked it up and played together as a team and got the win.”
Maccabi was in complete control of the game for 40 minutes and was never in doubt. Sure Alba had their moments but every time they got to within 9 points, the Yellow & Blue bumped up the lead almost immediately thereby never giving the Germans a chance to get back into the game once they had opened up the big second quarter lead. Coach Sfairopoulos wanted to make sure that Alba didn’t dictate the pace of play as he had mentioned in his pregame press conference and his players were able to do exactly that. “Offensively, whenever we could run, we ran. Whenever we didn’t have something, we stopped and got organized. That is how we kept the rhythm and that was the most important thing. All of the players were really concentrated. All of the players followed our plan. I’m very happy with how our players performed.” Angelo Caloiaro, who arguably had one of his best Euroleague games with 16 points, going 8/8 from the free throw line with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals echoed his coach’s comments, “It was very important to start off the second half in the right direction. We’re looking at each game one by one. They’re all important. We gotta get back into the top eight. Communication is key, it’s the staple in a lot of defenses: communicating, talking. We did some switching today, so we needed it a little bit more than normal.”