Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to ASVEL Villeurbanne 84-81 in Euroleague action as their record dropped to 5-9 on the season. The French hosts were consistently one step ahead throughout the 40 minutes as their big man Moustapha Fall dominated the paint early to set the tone from the outset. Norris Cole and Amine Noua closed out the final frame in fine fashion as TJ Parker’s squad notched the win leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv with a number of question marks ahead of a date with Barcelona on Friday night.
Fall led the way for ASVEL with 15 points and an efficiency rating of 25, Cole scored 15 points, Amine Noua added 11 points and David Lighty checked 10 points and 8 rebounds in the win. Scottie Wilbekin was Ioannis Sfairpoulos’s high scorer with 25 points, Elijah Bryant added 12 points (0/6 from 3) and Dragan Bender chipped in 11 points all coming in the first half in the loss.
1) There is a book series called “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown and that is exactly how Maccabi began the game, flat, flat like a pancake. Giving up 30 points in the first quarter and 50 points for the half and being dominated in the paint by Moustapha Fall wasn’t exactly in the game book for this contest, but that’s what happened. Ante Zizic was totally ineffective playing 13 total minutes and scoring a paltry 2 points while picking up two early fouls sending him to the bench. There were little things that plagued the Yellow & Blue whether it was a botched handoff to Wilbekin where he fell flat in the middle of the court (didn’t we see that in Valencia) or Wilbekin driving into the paint and falling flat on his face in the key, it wasn’t Maccabi’s night. “We didn’t start the game as we planned,” explained Sfairopoulos. “We didn’t want to open the game allowing such easy points to our opponent. They scored 30 points in the first period and 50, in general, in the first half, and that was something that we couldn’t control in the first half because of our defense.” Angelo Caloiaro also spoke about the team coming out flat, “We came out slow and gave up way too many easy buckets in the first half, building too big of a hole. By the time we turned it around defensively, really locking in and playing more aggressively, it was a little too late.”
2) Coach Sfairopoulos tried to support the players following the loss and encouraged them for coming back in the game and not just folding flat like a cheap suit. That certainly is important and noble of the bench boss but at the end of the day when will the morale victories end? At some point that comes to an end. “In the second half, we changed the momentum of the game. I think we played much better defense. We started really good and came back to the game. I think this is the positive thing from our team, and we showed better character in the second half. I think it was very crucial that, when the game went to 69-67, we allowed ASVEL to get a lead of 11 points, and that was very crucial for the final decision of the game. But again, we didn’t give up. We tried to come back and had some chances. We had the last shot to tie the game, to go to overtime. Unfortunately, we missed, but my players showed a big effort. They didn’t give up and fought until the end.” Caloairo echoed the coach’s words, “In the second half, we continued to fight, didn’t give up at the end, and that’s a positive, but we need to start better and play better all four quarters.”
Looks like Omri Casspi isn't playing as he was sitting in a hoodie with a mask on the side. He isn't listed on the Euroleague roster for the game. So either they are saving him for Barcelona on Friday or there is an issue as he didn't play on Sunday vs Hapoel Haifa.
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3) But let’s be honest, Maccabi never looked like they were going to win from the get go. They looked slow, sluggish and just plain disinterested and not focussed from the majority of the game. But that really began before the tipoff when the club didn’t dress Omri Casspi and didn’t bother telling anyone until I Tweeted out that he was sitting with a hoodie and mask and wasn’t on the bench. Then the message comes out from Maccabi that since it was a double week he is expected to play against Barcelona. But didn’t we hear that Casspi didn’t play on Sunday against Hapoel Haifa in the State Cup because it was a double week coming up? Regardless, Maccabi HAD to dress Casspi if he was fit because ASVEL was their best chance to win and split the two games this week. Instead Maccabi loses a game that they needed to win before a trip to first place Barcelona. Rest Casspi for that game when you know that your chances of winning are not as high, there is nothing to be ashamed of. So now instead of being 6-8 heading to Spain they are 5-9 about to be 5-10 with Panathinaikos on deck. Maccabi and Coach Sfairopoulos will look back at this game for a very long time.
For ASVEL, the win was their fourth of the campaign and the heroes of the game Moustapha Fall and Amine Noua both knew how crucial the win was as the duo did massive damage in the paint all game long going a combined 10/13 inside good for a total of 26 points. “We are hungry, this is why the game was tough, but we finally ended up with the win,” explained Fall. “We need to win at home because on the road is more difficult for us so far. We need to get every win we can get at home.” Noua had this to say about the win for his squad, ”That was important. I think we played good, that was a good team spirit and I am proud of my teammates. It was a great team effort and we deserved the win. The EuroLeague is top-level and we need to be focused for 40 minutes and play hard, and that is what we did. That was a pretty good game, so we can be proud. We have an important game coming and so more this month. Let’s be focused, do some work and keep going.”
Elijah Bryant went 0/6 from 3-point land while Tyler Dorsey was 1/5 from the charity stripe.
Yovel Zoosman played just under 11 minutes and didn’t score. Oz Blayzer registered a DNP.
TJ Parker’s squad shot 67.3% (33/49) from 2.
ASVEL outrebounded Maccabi 34-27 and dished out more assists 16-13.