Maccabi Tel Aviv pummeled Nes Ziona 96-74 as Scottie Wilbekin helped lead the hosts to the convincing win. With the score 54-51 midway through the third quarter, the yellow-and-blue used an 18-3 run to end the third quarter to notch the win.
Wilbekin led the way with 16 points, Tyler Dorsey added 14 points, Chris Jones scored 13 points while Dragan Bender chipped in with 12 points and 8 rebounds. Patrick Miller scored 22 points to pace Nes Ziona, Wayne Selden added 21 points and Braian Angola scored 11 points in the loss.
Oz Blayzer opened the game with points for Maccabi Tel Aviv but Tal Dunne with a 3-point play and Jerome Meyinsse answered for Nes Ziona to get the first quarter underway. Omri Casspi and Othello Hunter scored inside, Wayne Selden hit a pair of triples and added a dunk at the other end but Scottie Wilbekin drilled a 3-pointer, TJ Cline put in a floater, Wilbekin kept pouring in points as Tyler Dorsey and John Dibartolomeo each went from downtown to give the hosts a 27-18 lead after ten minutes.
Dorsey scored an acrobatic bucket, but Dunne, Patrick Miller and Braian Angola found points before Dragan Bender hit from outside as Maccabi led 32-24 with 6:40 left in the second quarter. Miller put in a dunk, Selden went from deep and then scored an off balance layup, Meyinsse also scored inside while Miller added a 3-point play to pull within 2-points, 39-37 with 2:25 remaining in the first half. Casspi and Jones from downtown but Selden did as well but Wilbekin hit a jumper to give Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s a 46-44 advantage at halftime.
Miller kept scoring for Brad Greenberg’s squad, Blayzer, Wilbekin and Bender answered for Maccabi but Angola scored downtown as the hosts stayed in front 54-51 midway through the third quarter. Selden with a pair of jumpers, Wilbekin and Hunter teamed up for an alley-oop, Sandy Cohen scored a 3-pointer as did DiBartolomeo to bump up the Maccabi lead to 72-55 after thirty minutes.
Angola tried to keep Nes Ziona competitive with a layup but Bender with points both from the inside and outside plus a triple from Cohen gave Maccabi a 83-65 lead with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter. Dorsey and Miller traded baskets, Dorsey then drilled a pair from long distance as Maccabi cruised to the 96-74 victory.
Maccabi Tel Aviv hosted 1,000 fans on what was “Itanu” night against Nes Ziona. Itanu in English means “with us” and while fans weren’t able to be a part of the team in the stands for most of the season due to the coronavirus, Maccabi instituted this special fan club where the supporters were able to have Zoom calls with the players and staff while also having cutouts of themselves in the seats. However, the piece de resistance was this game where the players wore special edition jerseys and warmup shirts with the fans names printed on them. Pretty cool. “It was nice having more fans than normal and having their names on our jersey,” Chris Jones said following the game. Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos also commented on the evening, “It was very important for us that we had 1,000 fans and we wore the “Itanu” jersey with all of the names of the fans that are so close to us. We’re happy that we had a good game and it was a better feeling as there are more fans which we hope will grow as time goes by.”
On the court itself, Scottie Wilbekin looked to the be Scottie Wilbekin of old. He moved and grooved on the court, he looked engaged making the right passes with 7 assists while also taking solid shots going 6/13 for 16 points. When Wilbekin is the player that the fans have come to know and love then that’s good news for the fans, the staff and his teammates as Jones said, “He’s been the same Scottie and you see more of the shots that you work on daily go in then you get a better spirit. For us it’s great to see him in back in his mood, feeling good, making shots and his confidence is back so hopefully he can continue this and we can get more wins.” This was only one of the few times that Jones and Wilbekin have shared the court with each other and coach Sfairopoulos explained why he has moved to play the pair together, “Lately we play with two ball handlers to help Scottie as he was tired and fatigued. This is the reason we have played like that.”
WATCH OUT FOR WAYNE SELDEN
Wayne Selden has looked to be really getting into the swing of things as mentioned in the weekly wrapup and that continued against Maccabi Tel Aviv as the former NBA guard scored 21 points on the night including a trip of triples and some nice individual efforts in the court. As Selden gets more and more involved, Nes Ziona will also get better and make a run both in the Europe Cup and in the Israeli League. His coach Brad Greenberg spoke about what Selden brings to the table for the club, “He’s played more under control with makes less drives into traffic. He’s taking open shots and going into the open court and has been alert more defensively. He has played well as he’s getting into his own.”
Coach Sfairopoulos is a beloved figure by the Maccabi Tel Aviv fans. He brought back dignity and pride to club with a number of Israeli league titles and a fine run in the Euroleague last season which was halted due to the coronavirus. As much as he and the club would have loved to repeat their effort from last campaign it just hasn’t happened for a variety of reasons all stemming from COVID-19. From ending last season late and beginning this season’s preparation behind schedule, it has been a challenging year to say the least. The coach spoke frankly about this following the game and also reflected on being straight, honest and to the point with the fanbase, “The crowd understands the conditions this year are different than last year. We started building our team after other teams and some may say that these are excuses but they are reasons. Maccabi, Zalgiris, Panathinaikos without crowds have an effect financially as well. We didn’t have preseason games and practices were limited. It’s not easy and we could do better, first myself and I am responsible. People understand that this is a strange season and we are not lying and not trying to find excuses, they understand that. After so many games, it’s not easy for the player to bring the inside of him to every game. Look at EFES as to how they started and now they have home court advantage. Zalgiris started great and now they aren’t sure they will make the playoffs. The entire season is strange, Maccabi fans know basketball and we have fans that can understand the reality.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva dropped Nahariya 105-92 as Caleb Agada starred with 36 points in the northern capital to help get Rami Hadar’s squad back onto the winning track. The southern Reds faced a stiff test from the northerners but finally pulled away from the last place team in the fourth quarter to take the win. In addition to the 36 points, Agada also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 6 assists, Eric Griffin scored 20 points, Tom Maayan chipped in with 13 points and Travis Warech checked in with 12 points in the win. Jaron Blossomgame led Shai Segalovitz’s squad with 25 points, McKenzie Moore added 23 points and Malik Newman chipped in 18 points in the loss.