Maccabi Tel Aviv (8th place, 11-10) fell 89-95 to Olympiacos (1st place, 14-7) in Piraeus on Friday night as the Yellow & Blue’s away record dropped to 2-9. Sasha Vezenkov (23 points and 9 rebounds), Shaquielle McKissic (13 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist) and Kostas Papanikolaou (10 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists) were in double-figures for the hosts, while Roman Sorkin (23 points and 9 rebounds), Wade Baldwin IV (14 points, 3 rebounds and 8 assists), Bonzie Colson (13 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists) and Jalen Adams (13 points and 2 steals) led the scoring for the visitors.
Here are a few of my reflections from the round 21 clash.
The Good: Roman Sorkin
After coming off the bench and scoring 6 points in the first half, Sorkin led Maccabi in the second half comeback (more about what they were coming back from below), with 17 of his points coming in the second half for a career high of 23 points and a performance index rating of 33.
While Maccabi didn’t get the win, they will be encouraged by Sorkin’s strong game – his first game in double-figures since the away win against Milan in the middle of December.
When asked about his game, Sorkin focused more on the team, “It’s important for the team that we stayed in the game, notwithstanding that were behind and notwithstanding the crowd. We proved that we’re able to come back. We need to come to the next game and win, even if it’s away. We saw that we fought very well, we just need to come and win.”
The Bad: The second quarter
After coming out firing, Maccabi had an 11-point lead midway through the first quarter, leading 21-10 after 6 minutes, with 8 points from Colson, 6 points from Jarell Martin (who did not add to his points tally before fouling out late in the third frame), 4 points from Baldwin and 3 points from John DiBartolomeo (12 points on 4/6 from beyond the arc). However, Olympiacos finished the quarter with a 14-3 run and won the second quarter 27-11 – including a 12-0 run in the last three minutes – to take a commanding 51-36 half-time lead.
McKissic and Vezenkov were huge for the home side, scoring 10 and 6 points respectively in that quarter alone, stretching the lead out to 17 points before Sorkin scored a bucket at the end of the quarter to make the halftime deficit 15 points.
“We started the game well, but the second quarter was terrible for us from all aspects,” Katash said after the game. “I think it started with the way that we attacked, which led to giving them a lot of easy points. We weren’t organized on either side of the court and we need to learn from this. We spoke about the second quarter at half time, our body language wasn’t good and we didn’t play good basketball.”
While Maccabi did win the second half – and got back to within four points early in the last quarter – ultimately losing the second quarter by 16 points was too much to recover from at the end of the day.
The Ugly: Terror back home
Over Shabbat, Israel was shocked by multiple terrorist attacks. On Friday night, a terrorist shot people outside of a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, killing seven and injuring at least three others. Maccabi was given the news after the end of the game, and here are some of the immediate reactions:
Katash: “We got the news immediately after we finished the game… Really, we received the news in astonishment and shock. Our hearts are with the families and with everyone in Israel. I’m sure that everyone is dim, from the result and how things happened, it’s shocking. Our hearts are with the families of the murdered. Of course, a speedy recovery to the injured. We’ll try to speak a little bit about basketball, but it’s difficult to speak about basketball after an evening like this.”
Sorkin: “I want to send home that our hearts are with the families of the murdered and the injured from the terrorist attack in Jerusalem. Be strong – we are with you. Everything else pales in comparison.”
Maccabi captain John DiBartolomeo: “Before we talk about basketball, I just want to say from everyone here at Maccabi that our thoughts and our prayers are with families of the victims – the people who were murdered and injured – in the terror attack in Jerusalem. It’s a terrible thing to hear about and our thoughts are with them.”
Then on Saturday morning in Jerusalem, a terrorist injured a father and son outside of the Old City.
As painful as a loss may be to a team, at the end of the day it’s only a game.
Up Next: Kiryat Ata and a Double week road trip to Spain
Maccabi returns to Israeli league action tomorrow late afternoon (17:00 IST / 10:00 EST) away to Ironi Kiryat Ata, where the 11-3 Yellow & Blue will be favorites against the 4-9 hosts. Maccabi will be looking to get back into the win column after a close 96-95 loss to league-leaders Hapoel Tel Aviv last week.
The Yellow & Blue then heads back on the road with a EuroLeague double-week in Spain, with games against Barcelona (4th place, 13-8) on Tuesday night (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST) and Valencia (9th place, 11-10) on Thursday night (21:30 IST / 14:30 EST). Not only would two more losses on the road bring Maccabi’s record to below .500, but it’s even more important given that Valencia is one of the teams competing with Maccabi at the bottom of the playoff bracket.
“We need to first win against Kiryat Ata, then come to the EuroLeague double-week and try to continue to rise,” Sorkin said. “We stayed in the game [against Olympiacos] and showed that we’re able to – we just need to come and win.”