Maccabi look a gift horse in the mouth and need to move on ASAP after loss to CSKA

Nov 11, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

CSKA tried hard to give Maccabi the game on a silver platter. The referees also kept giving the Yellow & Blue call after call after call all game long. Everyone wanted to hand the victory to Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team, but they just couldn’t figure out how to take it as they fell 74-73 in a tightly contested battle.

LISTEN: Instant reaction to Maccabi’s defeat in Russia

All game long Maccabi was there, right there. Up by a point or two, down by a point or two, but when they were literacy gifted the game whether it was a free throw missed by Derrick Williams or a poorly drawn up and or executed final play the Yellow & Blue just couldn’t snatch the win from the eventual jaws of defeat.

Alexey Sheved – Photo Credit: Euroleague

It’s never easy to win in Russia no matter what team Maccabi is facing and they’ve only beaten CSKA in Moscow twice in 20+ years. It doesn’t matter who is playing for the “Red Army” team when Maccabi sees red they always seem to have an issue close to the Kremlin and against a sub-par CSKA team that was the case once again.

Maccabi came close but as they say, no cigar.

“I congratulated the players how they played tonight and ti was a close game like a Derby, We are unhappy because we had the last shot and could have won the game. This still doesn’t cancel the big fight our team made to try to win the game,” Sfairopoulos said.

CSKA coach and fellow Greek bench boss Dimitris Itoudis echoed Sfairopoulos’s thoughts, “We witnessed a very close game with many lead changes and both teams showed a tremendous desire.”

Dimitrios Itoudis – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

All true, but of course there can only be one winner and that wasn’t Maccabi who also couldn’t shut down the game’s MVP Iffe Lundberg in the fourth quarter who was able to put his team ahead by what was a huge 5-point lead in a close game. The other player who just returned to action after being out injured was a very able Marius Grigonis who Itoudis described as his X-Factor with 10 points while going 2/4 from downtown.

“CSKA scored a lot of tough shots on the buzzer in the last quarter and this is how they were up. We tried to come back but I think that the luckiest team would win the game as either team could have won. I think our defense was very good and CSKA has the best offense in the league and they score 84 points while we kept them to only 74,” Sfairopoulos explained.

Sure, Maccabi was able to hold CSKA who has the best offense in the league to just 74 points which was roughly 10 points off of their season average but on the other hand Maccabi couldn’t top the hosts points allowed average as CSKA give up over 80 points a game as well.

Iffe Lungberg – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Lundberg was a player who grabbed the opportunity with both hands ever since he arrived at CSKA last season and he has yet to let go as he always seems to make the right play and score the important points when they count the most.

“We came in prepared to fight for 40 minutes,” Lundberg said. “That’s exactly what we did tonight. And I’m just really really proud of the way that we stuck together throughout the game. Coach told us to keep fighting and trust each other, especially on defense. Ultimately we came out with the win and we’re really happy with the result.”

Roman Sorkin is one of Sfairopoulos’s young players who is also taking advantage of the Euroleague minutes that he is getting and once again the Oregon product didn’t look out of place one bit at this level of play.
“This was a very close game that went to the end and we had a chance to win on the last possession. They hit some very hard shots and it could have gone either way. We fight hard and we have to take that from the game.”

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Euroleague

While CSKA was able to make some hard contested shots, Maccabi had an issue from long distance hitting their shots and went only 2/13 from deep in what was a startling number. The Yellow & Blue must do better from downtown in order to win and they are aware of that. What was odd was to see Scottie Wilbekin really not attempt one shot from deep which most probably means his ankle injury is an issue for him and he can;t jump the way he normally would do when shooting from beyond the arc.

Derrick Williams who scored 20 points on the game but went 1/2 from the line when he could have tied up the contest as time wound down feels that Maccabi wasn’t missing anything from their game play, “I felt that we didn’t lack anything at all today. It was a 1-point game against a very very good team on the road. I think we have a lot to look at positively and negatively we had a few things that happened in the game leading into the 4th quarter. I thought we played great. We didn’t come here to lose so that is tough but we learn a lot about our team and the character that we have.”

That’s all nice, fine and dandy but to respectively disagree, Maccabi was missing something; its long distance shooting which was something they had trouble with in Israeli League play earlier in the week at Hapoel Holon.

Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Euroleague

In the Euroleague you’ve got to forget about a loss and move on quickly because the season is so long and no team wants to see a losing streak that could potentially have a snowball effect. So were there any lessons learnt from the defeat? According to Williams there as definitely something that the team took from the loss.

“We learnt that we can compete with anybody and everybody knows that we can compete with Barca, CSKA, any of the top names and win. Tonight is didn’t happen and at the same time we are a good team and as long as we know that I think that is the confidence that shows.”

Derrick Williams & Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

As for Sorkin, he want the team to take the fight he saw the Yellow & Blue showed, “The battle that we showed on the road in Russia is something we can also take. We were very close and we fought very hard. We were right there and if we would have scored at the end we would be celebrating. We have to keep our heads up and we have a league game coming up on Sunday which we have to win and get back our momentum.”

Maccabi needs to keep collecting wins and they will look to do so at home next week against Monaco and then on the road in Greece at Olympiacos. Once a winning streak ends, it’s super important to get right back on one very quickly.

So the Yellow & Blue could sit and delve into that gift horses mouth, ultimately it would be best if they took a peak and moved on very, very quickly.

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