Larkin? Beaubois! EFES Guard Stars, Maccabi’s Mental Meltdown, Ending The Bender Experiment: 3-Pointers on Maccabi’s loss to EFES, Analysis & More

1) Oh boy, a 2-5 start is not the way Maccabi Tel Aviv thought this season was going to begin. There’s no other way to say it but the campaign thus far has been a disaster and there is plenty of reasons why. But this game in Istanbul was a must, must win for the Yellow & Blue as EFES came into the game ripe for the taking. Playing without all-star guard Shane Larkin and big man Bryant Dunston and a banged up Tibor Pleiss, Ergin Ataman was missing two of his squad’s most important pieces and Maccabi still were unable to come away with the victory. Once again Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team couldn’t close out a tight game as they fell in dramatic fashion in what felt like the millionth time this has happened to them this campaign. Add to that having EFES shot over 60% from two and 41% from three didn’t help matters as well. But to come into a game and go down 11-0 right off that bat is just inexcusable as the Maccabi perimeter defense was once again atrocious allowing Pleiss, Beaubois and Moerman to just rip off one triple after the next going 8/14 is not going to help you win any games. Beaubois who had another marvelous game at the expense of Maccabi Tel Aviv with 23 points and the game saving block on Scottie Wilbekin (it seems he does every time as he had 22 points last season in Istanbul versus the Yellow & Blue) also had a career high efficiency rating of 36 was stellar and had this to say after the game, “It’s a great win. We knew it was going to be difficult because Maccabi is a very good team and also we were missing some key players, but I think everybody did a good job today. We fought together and we’re happy about the win. The most important thing is the win. It is a team sport and I think we did a great job as a team. We need to keep fighting. This season is going to be difficult because of everything going on. We need to stick together.”


2) Beaubois and perimeter defense was one reason why Maccabi lost. Another reason is how Tibor Pleiss was able to just do what he wanted to when he wanted to in 32 minutes of play scoring 20 points and pulling down 9 rebounds in the win. Pleiss, probably shouldn’t have even been playing as his ankle was in horrible shape but he took pain killers and said he would play to me when I interviewed him and that’s what he did, he played like a real trooper for his colonel, Ergin Ataman. The Yellow & Blue knew full well what condition Pleiss was in and they couldn’t take advantage of it. Huge credit to Pleiss for his gutty performance one that Maccabi should take a lesson or two from. “Before the game, I thought I can maybe play 15 minutes, 10 minutes, because my ankle is totally blue. But the 32 minutes, they went so quickly, so I’m happy… I know it’s always easier, it’s better to win sometimes by 20 points, but winning a game in this situation by a block, everybody was pumped up, the whole team came on the court. Everybody was happy. This is an amazing feeling as well.”

3) Maccabi Tel Aviv fell apart mentally in crunch time with another meltdown and it didn’t look pretty. First the inbounds pass from Tyler Dorsey to Elijah Bryant (who had his Euroleague high in points with 22) back to Tyler Dorsey down by two points with 21 seconds was a horror show. Bryant received the ball was put under pressure and his pass back to Dorsey went awry as he slipped and fell on the court as the ball went out of bounds. But then for Ante Zizic to get a block on Moerman with 7 seconds left, turn to the bench and celebrate instead of heading down court quickly to look for the tying basket was even more painful to watch. What was also brutal to see was Tyler Dorsey holding the ball for a second after the block before handing it off to Scottie Wilbekin which burnt valuable time off of the clock forcing the guard to rush a last second 3-pointer that was blocked by Rodrigue Beaubois, also didn’t help much. Maccabi needed to get their tails down court ASAP to tie the game up but the time wasted while it looked as if the players thought the game was tied. That wasn’t a good look. Tyler Dorsey spoke about yet another disappointing defeat, “I feel like it was a hard fought game for us and it was one of those games that we couldn’t finish at the end and we’ve got to find a way to win close games. We played well and with heart but we came up short.” Elijah Bryant also chimed in, “For sure we are very disappointed from the outcome of the game. We will continue to fight regardless of the outcome. We are right there, just one or two possessions away.” Coach Sfairopoulos said it came down to the fine points of the game, “We lost the game in the small details and it’s very important for us that everybody will help the team and be ready to contribute. I also expect the injured players to come in and support the current roster, so we’ll be with a full roster and be fresher to win these games at the end.”


Can Maccabi Tel Aviv put an end to the Dragan Bender experiment? Please? 20 minutes of play and very, very little to show from it with 2 points and 3 rebounds in what was once again yet another underwhelming performance from the 4th selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. The bottom line is that the hourglass for Bender has come to an end as he has shown little to nothing in Euroleague play. Maccabi can’t afford to have a player that is constantly a minus. Once he comes off it’s like addition by subtraction for the club. Let’s face it, he’s just not producing and there has to come a time where the coaching staff says, full stop, enough. We have to make a change or just simply not play him. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see him succeed but it’s just not happening and when you have a player like Oz Blayzer who played an efficient and passionate 8 minutes you just wonder why he’s not on the court more. But that being said, Sfairopoulos was happy with the team’s effort, “I’m proud of how we played tonight against one of the best teams in the EuroLeague. Efes had some key players absent, but they still have a lot of quality and experience, and although the result didn’t go our way, I’m proud of how we fought tonight.”

Dov Halickman Photography

One more point to ponder, Dori Sahar came in near the end of the first half making his Euroleague debut but it will be one that he will most probably want to forget. The youngster fouled Beaubois going to the basket as the Frenchman scored the And-1 bucket and free throw costing Maccabi 3 points in his 9 seconds on the court. This is the same youngster that Sfairopoulos said wouldn’t see any playing time when asked by Sports Rabbi reporter Moshe Halickman this past Sunday night. The coach said that they weren’t ready and he wouldn’t throw them into the deep water, but he did and it cost them dearly. Perhaps even the difference in the game.

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