Maccabi controls the paint against Milano but Reynolds and Zizic but tougher times ahead versus Madrid

Mar 24, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

With the Russian teams having been officially excluded from the Euroleague standings, Maccabi Tel Aviv made sure to put everyone on notice that they rightfully deserve to be in the place that they are now; in position to head to the postseason for the first time since 2015.

With a dominant 75-58 win over Milano in front of a rabid Yad Eliyahu crowd, the Yellow & Blue controlled the game from beginning to end with over 50% of their points from inside the paint while limiting Ettore Messina’s squad to their lowest point output for the season along with the 58 points they scored against Olympiacos last month.

Avi Even’s crew who had been criticized for lackadaisical defense over the past few weeks were anything but as they clamped down on the Italian team holding them to a season low 9 assists. a season high 19 turnovers and to brutal percentages from outside shooting only 7/24 for 20% from beyond the arc in a game that left the Milano tactician shaking his head in disbelief.

אבי אבן

Avi Even – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv


“They played better and deserved to win. They did what they have been doing recently vey well: attack one-on-one, create a lot of situations with their athleticism. They were driving into the paint and they used very well both Zizic and Reynolds. We shot the ball terrible and in addition to this, we turned it over 19 times, which is a terrible combination but again,” a disgruntled Messina noted following the game.

“I’m happy we managed to hold Milano to 58 points,” a cheery Even said. “It was a huge team effort on all defensive aspects. Our offense was a result of our defense and Scottie did an amazing job on the defensive side of the ball with deflections and rebounds. We worked very hard and we scored some easy points to win the game.”

Obviously, Even’s game plan to stifle Milano worked to perfection and two of the players who helped lead the way were Iftach Ziv and Khyri Thomas as the former played his best game in Europe to date for Maccabi who were without captain John Dibartolomeo.

“Iftach is gaining more confidence and our connection is a bit more natural with the work I am doing with him,” Even explained. “He is understanding better and he brought the energy and intensity to this game. I’m happy that slowly but surely he has been developing and that he will continue this way going forward.”

Iftach Ziv – Photo Credit: Euroleague


Not only did Ziv end the game with solid numbers, 6 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists with only one turnover and an efficiency rating of 13 while drawing 6 fouls but also he ran the contest like a true floor general who oozed with confidence and knew exactly how to outfox a wily veteran like Sergio Rodriguez time and time again. Add to that a coast to coast dunk and his performance left not only his girlfriend Kim Or thrilled but the rest of the over 9,300 fans in attendance.

“It was great to watch Iftach,” Keenan Evans said. “It started with last game in the Israeli League and it’s progression. When you see him doing well and having fun, and Jalen (Reynolds) yelling in faces even getting T doing their things and having fun, it was great to see him have a breakout Euroleague game.”

Speaking of Reynolds who turned in a spectacular MVP worthy showing with 14 points on 7/10 from the floor including a poster of a dunk over Kyle Hines, the sky’s the limit when he’s positive and ready to go.

“I think it starts in practice. Obviously, Avi (Even) is such a good coach and put us in the position to do these things. I think we played more together and I think that is the heartbeat of this team. When we play together, the sky’s the limit.”

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Euroleague


Even also talked about how important Reynolds is for the club’s success, “Jalen works really hard in practice. He really wants to succeed. Sometimes his will, his motivation is so great that it hurts him, but he’s there all the time as far will, motivation, hunger to be the best he can be. That’s a very important characteristic. I’m very happy that he had a very meaningful impact on the game, on both ends of the floor, by the way. Not just on offense, also on defense he was wonderful today.”

One of Maccabi’s biggest issues this season has been their performance on the road where they have had trouble bringing the right energy to succeed in taking home the victories away from the friendly confines of Yad Eliyahu. Reynolds explained why that is, “People don’t know how much hard work we put in, it’s not easy. Having the right mindset, being away from your family and it’s something separating life from the game. It’s not easy going on the road and getting a win. At home you can do things that you don’t normally do. Having that crowd gives us the extra push you need.”

Macccabi will certainly need that extra push when they play Real Madrid on Thursday night and their big men won’t be able to control the paint as they did against Milano with a towering Walter Tavares ready to block any shot coming his way. In addition, Los Blancos are also coming off of a rough loss to EFES and will look to get back onto the winning track.

“We’ll be playing against one of the best teams in Europe,” Even said about Real. “Traditionally these games are a big challenge for us but at the end of the day as players and as a club these are the games that we want to play and I hope we will bring the same aggressiveness and intensity to that game.”

Keenan Evans – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv


Evans also spoke about what the second place team brings to the table, “We will prepare for a great team and one that is a winning team every year. So it would be a very big win for us and transition what we did this game to the next. They are talented and they will have a couple of long nights after the loss. We want to have a good defensive effort to keep them in a low scoring game and come with aggressiveness.”

Finally, Reynolds feels as if Maccabi can bring the same energy as they did against Milano while he also discussed what the keys to victory will be.

“I definitely think we can replicate our performance and it’s a matter of getting in and doing your thing. Getting stops and making shots will make us a tough team to defeat and we have to keep focusing and working hard and playing for one another.

“It’s going to be a tough game rebounding and communicating but we have to throw the first punch and bring the energy off the bench like I do. We have been working on packing the paint and helping when someone gets beat. Be aggressive and if you don’t have the heart then you shouldn’t be playing,”

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