Real Madrid squeaked by Maccabi Tel Aviv 86-85 as Jaycee Carroll drilled home the winning 3-pointer with just seconds remaining to drop the Yellow & Blue to their second loss in a row. The Yellow & Blue were without Omri Casspi who was out due to stomach issues but that didn’t stop Ioannis Sfairpoulos’s squad from playing the hosts tight throughout the 40 minutes.
Scottie Wilbekin led Maccabi with 22 points while John Dibartolomeo and Elijah Bryant each dropped 15 points in the dramatic defeat. Jordan Mickey was the high scorer for Madrid with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Jaycee Carroll added 14 points and Anthony Randolph chipped in with 11 points in the victory.
Maccabi and Real got off to a fast start as Scottie Wilbekin and Nate Wolters paced the Yellow & Blue to a 13-10 lead while a dunk and triple by Anthony Randolph kept the host’s close midway through the first frame. Tyler Dorsey and Wilbekin kept the heat on as Rudy Fernandez scored 6 points for Real as the quarter ended all knotted up at 22-22.
Jordan Mickey rattled off 8 points but Elijah Bryant matched him almost point for point, however, baskets by Sergio Llull and Gabriel Deck gave Real a 37-32 advantage with 5:52 left in the half forcing Maccabi to call a timeout. Llull immediately drilled home a 3-pointer but Brant once again scored to keep the Yellow & Blue within striking range. Fabien Casseur increased Pablo Laso’s team’s lead but a pair of John DiBartolomeo triples sent Maccabi into halftime down by six points, 50-44.
Maccabi opened up the third quarter with a 12-0 run as Quincy Acy scored a beauty of a 3-pointer, Black slammed home a monstrous dunk, while Wolters and DiBartolomeo each hit a triple of their own to take a 56-50 lead midway through the frame. But Madrid ripped off an 8-0 run of their own to retake the lead 58-56 with 4 minutes remaining in the quarter. The two squads continued to trade buckets as Jake Cohen hit a layup to tie up the score 65-65 after thirty minutes.
Hunter and Bryant gave Maccabi a 72-68 lead but Casseur and Deck once again pulled Madrid even at 72-72 midway through the 4th quarter. Wilbekin scored 7 straight points for Maccabi but Deck and Mickey tied up the game at 81-81 with under two minutes to go. Wilbekin hit a runner in the lane with 10 seconds remaining but a Carroll triple with 2.4 clicks left gave Madrid the 86-85 win.
1) Maccabi are now 0-2 in Euroleague play this season and that’s exactly how Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos didn’t want to start the campaign; with two losses on the road. But that’s what the situation is. After falling at Khimki last week in a game that the Yellow & Blue were never truly in, the fought tooth and nail in Madrid only to come up a point short. Where did that point come from? Was it Tarik Black’s unsportsmanlike foul? Was it one fo the other 25 fouls that Maccabi committed compared to only 19 charged to Madrid? Was it John Dibartolomeo fouling out after playing terrific ball in the 17 minutes he was on the court? Was it from one of the 7 Yellow & Blue turnovers or was it just a miscalculated shot? It could be all of the above and it could be none. Playing without Omri Casspi, Maccabi was able to go toe to toe with one of the best teams in Europe, but came up just that one point short. In other words, Sfairpoulos’s crew need to find a way to make sure they take home the win in a game that they led down the stretch. They were just oh so close. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. “We had the game won,” Wilbekin said following the contest. “It was one defensive stop that we messed up on and we would have had the game.”
2) Jaycee Carroll. Unbelievable. He just keeps killing Maccabi. How many years has he been doing that now? It seems that the 36 year old sniper has been doing in Maccabi for thousands of years, although in truth it’s just been since 2011 when he joined Real Madrid after two seasons with Gran Canaria. But boy, can that guy shoot. Bang, Bang, Bang. And when he see the Yellow & Blue jerseys it seems he scores double. How happy was Carroll after hitting the game winner once again against Maccabi? You’d think it would be old hat by now, but no, “I am very excited about the shot going in. The play we ran came out perfectly. Sergi [Llull] attacked, Edy [Tavares] set a nice screen and Sergi found me for a nice look to try to make a three-pointer to put us up a point. I am excited to get back into basketball and do whatever I can to help our team. It is fun coming in and trying to change the energy of the game, trying to do something different and make things happen. That is the fun part of coming in with the second unit, with Sergi, getting the energy going and trying to change the face of the game.”
3) If we look at the bright side, it’s true that Maccabi looked a million times better than last week when they fell at Khimki in almost every aspect. Defensively they were solid, at least in the second half fate giving up 28 second quarter points, offensively they scored and made shots that they didn’t last week. The Yellow & Blue kept the turnovers to a minimum with only 7, but on the other side of the coin, Maccabi only dished out 9 assists. Wilbekin believes that there are positives to be taken from the contest, “There are a lot of positive things that we can take away from the game. Good team defense, sticking to our game plan and that’s how you win games. We have to tighten up the little things.” Coach Sfairopoulos also talked about the game that was, ”I think that we played a great offensive game tonight. Defensively, we were very good only in the second half. I think we gave up some easy points in the first half, but our defense in the third period, and also in the last period, was really important to stay in the game and have big possibilities to win the game. In the end, 2 missed defensive rebounds made the difference; if we would have finished our defense against 1 or 2 missed shots with defensive rebounds, we would have had a different option in this game.”
Let’s be honest, when most people looked at Maccabi’s schedule the general feeling was that the Yellow & Blue would come home 0-2 to face Red Star Belgrade in their 3rd Euroleague game. The optimists were hoping that Maccabi would perhaps steal the Khimki game where they have historically recorded good results and would either be 2-1 or 1-2 after three games. However, no-one counted on the fact that Red Star would beat Fenerbahce fairly handily in Serbia and look good while doing it. The Belgrade based squad fell to Panathinaikos last week in Athens 87-82 but played well despite losing. This week they converted their fine play into a valuable victory and they will be riding that win into Tel Aviv next week. But as Coach Sfairopoulos put it following the game, “I spoke to the players in the locker room. For sure, when you lose like that it is not easy, but from one side, we are sad that we missed this opportunity. From the other side, we need to keep our heads up, to continue, to start with the home games that we have now, and I want to call on our fans to fill in the gym for the first home game after so many times in the EuroLeague.”