Let the dreamers dream and players play: Maccabi’s 6-2 start best since 19/20 and 13/14 which ended in Euroleague title

Nov 7, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv just keeps on winning as they captured their 5th Euroleague victory in a row with a 87-69 thumping of Baskonia in Spain. The Yellow & Blue have has a recent good run of results in Vitoria and yet another victory over Dusko Ivanovic’s team is always satisfying.

This time Ioannis Sfairopoulos pulled yet another rabbit out of his hat by having his center’s Jalen Reynolds and Ante Zizic totally dominate the paint scoring 32 points as both went 6/7 from the field to go along with 4 free throws a piece as as well five and four rebounds respectively. All in all Maccabi grabbed 37 rebounds to Baskonia’s 29 as the bench boss’s game plan worked to absolute perfection.

The fact that Sfairopoulos trusted the duo of Reynolds and Zizic to pull off his master plan and didn’t even dress his third center Mathias Lessort whose contract comes due the end of the month, shows one just how much he values the pair. Zizic has been playing superb basketball since his return from injury and has looked much more involved and able to move and groove light years ahead of the way he did last season. Reynolds is providing just what Sfairopoulos wanted to see whether it’s his strong scoring inside or his intelligent play from the outside. The two big men thread the needle perfectly.

Keenan Evans: Photo credit- Dov Halickman

Add to that a brilliant game from Derrick Williams and Keenan Evans and you’ve got a team that looks like they can competing with the big boys. Thursday night will see Maccabi visit one of those big boys in CSKA Moscow, one of the clubs that the Yellow & Blue historically have a tough time playing no matter where the game is taking place.

There are still dates with a rejuvenated Olympiacos, the always dangerous Real Madrid along with EFES, Fenerbache and even Zenit St. Petersburg. Those are not going to be easy matchups but the roster that has been put together looks like they can compete with anyone, anywhere.

Of course, there are still issues that are plaguing the squad whether it’s getting the Israelis into the game both literally and figuratively including Iftach Ziv, Oz Blayzer, Roman Sorkin, John DiBartolomeo and Jake Cohen.

James Nunnally – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

James Nunnally has looked great thus far, Angelo Caloiaro does a lot of the dirty work although he’s got to get the offensive numbers up a bit, Kameron Taylor looks to be adjusting to the Euroleague slowly but surely and perhaps most importantly the star of the show Scottie Wilbekin hasn’t had to carry the load.

With many more weapons at Sfairopoulos’s disposal he doesn’t need to be reliant on his go to guy, game in and game out which was something he had to do all of last season. Whether it was in continental play or in Israeli league action, there was no one other than Wilbekin who could provide scoring. There were so many minutes where Maccabi was trying to get water from a rock. This season is a totally different story with scorers galore.

Williams is clocking in with 12.1 points, Reynolds is scoring 9.6 points, Zizic 11.5, Nunnally 14.4, Evans 8.3 and Wilbekin 13.0 points per game all good enough for a 6-2 record, tied with four other teams for 2nd place in the standings. Maccabi also ranks 7th in points scored which gives Sfairopoulos the knowledge and more importantly the breathing room to rely on his team to find points when in a deficit which they were against Baskonia.

Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Shooting 55.41% from-2 good for 5th overall plus being able to take care of the ball ranking 4th in assist-turnover ratio having coughed up the ball only 90 times this season while dishing out 134 assists puts Maccabi in a very good spot especially as they head into a difficult November schedule.

Beginning the month with a win puts the team ahead of the ball game so to speak and despite having a preseason due to COVID-19 hitting members of the squad, the Yellow & Blue are shall we dare in prime position to be heading to the playoffs and potentially the Final Four?

Is it too early to begin dreaming of the playoffs and the Final Four?

Well, the last time Maccabi began the season with a 6-2 record was 2019/20 which would have seen them in the playoffs had the pandemic not swept through the world.

The previous time the Yellow & Blue began 6-2 before that was… well you guessed it, the 2013/14 season under David Blatt which ended in… yes the Euroleague title.

Let the dreamers dream, the players play and enjoy the ride to what could be a special season.

Photo Credit: Euroleague

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