It’s those eensy-weensy small details once again: Maccabi needs to find solutions fast before the Euroleague season slips away

Watching Maccabi Tel Aviv play in the Euroleague this season is like watching that same movie over and over and over again. It seems that the Yellow & Blue always find a way to lose due to something going awry in the small details. Yes, it’s those little eensy-weensy details. They always seem to come around and cause Maccabi problems especially near the end of the game which is exactly what happened yet again.

This time it was Olympiacos who were able to take advantage of Ioannis Sfairopolous’s squad down the stretch in a game that Maccabi seemed to control from the get go but were just unable to pull away and find that separation needed to out away the win. But instead it was Georgios Bartzokas who walked out of Yad Eliyahu with an 89-87 overtime win in hand.

“I think it was a close game, like everybody saw” said Coach Sfairopoulos. “We fought for the win until the end and the decision of the result was judged by a few details, few parts of the game that could have been different. I think one missed rebound, one early foul under the basket that sent them to the free-throw line, some open shots that we missed with which we could have finished the game in regulation.”

Tyler Dorsey – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Tyler Dorsey also said that those small little details were the culprit for the loss, “We lost games off of little mistakes at the end. One free throw, one shot, one defensive stop. It’s the little things, This game was in our hands and we let it slip away.”

There have been numerous games where the small details did Maccabi in, whether it was at CSKA, at Olympiacos, at EFES, at Valencia, at ASVEL or at home against Bayern, Milano, Zenit and now Olympiacos. Now that is quite the list of defeats that the Yellow & Blue couldn’t get those little details in place; 9 games in total. At the end of the day, a team really deserving of the playoffs finds a way to win those games.

Olympiacos – Photo Credit:

Othello Hunter who was one of the positives in the game surprising Sfairopoulos the morning of the game saying that he wanted to play despite not having practiced all week long due to injury that ha slept him out for a number of games. The big man disagreed with the sentiment that Maccabi can’t find a way into the postseason with just 15 games left in the season. “I don’t care who is in front of us. That’s just my opinion. I think we can win and we just have to be ready to keep building for the right moments to get to the playoffs and I think we can do it. There’s no doubt on our side. Maybe you guys have doubt but we don’t.”

It’s clear that the coaching staff is well aware of the issues that continue to plague the team when the game is hanging in the balance and Sfairopoulos wasn’t about to explain to the media exactly what those were, “It’s not mental, it’s not professional. I don’t want to analyze the game because this is what I will do with my players and not with you. What went wrong I will tell directly to them, this is from inside the team. We have to learn from the mistakes and try to improve.”

The big detail here is can Maccabi find a way to get over that hump and not make falter when it comes to the small details. Unfortunately for Maccabi is that the pattern that we have seen thus far doesn’t show any indication that these issues can be or will be rectified. They have been consistently inconsistent all season long.

Tyler Dorsey – Photo Credit:

Dorsey’s shooting is a prime example. 25 points with 5/7 triples last week at Alba Berlin, this week 1/5 from deep. “That’s how life is, you don’t have good days every day, personally I have make those shots and I put that pressure on myself and I will be better next game. That’s how it is, sometimes it falls and I have to work on my consistency.”

One thing that the Yellow & Blue can become more consistent with some effort is to work harder on defense and buckle down especially in crunch time in order to find a way to shut down their opponent when the game is on the line and not actually put them on the line where Giannoulis Larentzakis, Kostas Sloukas and Shaquielle McKissic went a combined 20/21. Olympiacos hit one after the next down at the end of the four quarter and into overtime which made the difference. Those small details.

Larentzakis is playing his first season in the Euroleague and while he has had limited minutes so far, coach Bartzokas has been very satisfied with his performance, “He’s a newcomer in the Euroleague and the level of his game was very high. Against Red Star he was crucial as well for us whether it was his free throws, shots or defense. We have a bunch of very good players including Sloukas on the team and we except Harrison and Papanikolau to be back soon for the important part of the season.”

Kostas Sloukas – Photo Credit:

Sloukas who led Olympiacos with a double-double, 21 points and 11 assists, also pointed out that the defense was a key part of the win, “I think in the second half we scored crucial baskets,” explained Sloukas. “We played better defense and in crucial moments we made good decisions. We played against a really good team, Maccabi for us is one more final. We are very proud that we won this game.”

“We were much, much better in all decisive situations,” said a satisfied Bartzokas. “In situations that Maccabi wanted to play, especially with Wilbekin and the very aggressive guards that they have.”

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Speaking of Wilbekin, the guard was swarmed all game long by Olympiacos and caused him to cough up the ball a Maccabi record 8 times which didn’t help matters. But you see what good defense can do even when a team isn’t scoring; it will always keep you in the game which was the case with the Piraeus based squad in the first quarter when they only scored 13 points.

Dorsey explained that winning has to come with playing good defense, “It’s always defense. I think today’s game we played good defense besides overtime and the stretch where they had a lot of shots. It was a low scoring game at halftime and offensively we have to get that side going as well so we can have both ends clicking at the same time.”

Maybe Maccabi is overthinking its defense. Bartzokas spoke about how Maccabi has two different teams that play during a game. One is when Othello Hunter is on the floor and the other when he isn’t. The Greek bench boss clearly knew how to counteract Sfairopoulos’s tactics, “There are two parts (of Maccabi), one when Othello Hunter is in the lineup, Maccabi plays switches on defense and we have to play immediately against these situations. And the other when all the other bigs are playing, it is a completely different Maccabi team, defensively. I think that in the second half and the overtime, we read this very well and we won.”

Othello Hunter – Photo Credit:

Hunter didn’t think that this was an issue that was hurting the team, “I don’t think there are two different styles, we all have strengths and weaknesses. But at the end of the day we’re Maccabi and we play together. We don’t think we’re two different teams, we’re thinking of how we can win games. We try to fight to win games. We don’t care what the opponent thinks and what schemes they have. We just try to play Maccabi basketball.” That may be the case, but it’s clear that teams come in prepared to play a predictable Maccabi basketball.

Maccabi will try to get back in the win column on Thursday when they welcome Baskonia to Yad Eliyahu. The same Baskonia that the Yellow & Blue were able to hold to a paltry 63 points in Spain in what was arguably Maccabi’s best defensive performance. One that they will need to duplicate in order to try and inch their way towards .500 and save their playoff chances before it is too late.

Remember, it’s all in the small details.

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