Maccabi Tel Aviv downed Baskonia 67-63 in a hard fought battle in Vitoria, Spain as the Yellow & Blue won their second Euroleague game in a row to bump their record up to 5-8. After a slow start, Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad picked up the pace in the second quarter with stellar play from Tyler Dorsey and Othello Hunter while Chris Jones and Angelo Caloiaro helped out in the third quarter. However, it was all Dorsey down the stretch as Maccabi locked up the victory to take the first game of a three game road trip.
Tyler Dorsey led Maccabi with 15 points, Othello Hunter added 12 points and Chris Jones chipped in with 10 points in the win. Achille Polonara scored 15 points, Youssoupha Fall scored 14 points and Pierrria Henry added 11 points for Dusko Ivanovic’s team in the loss.
1) Defense is the name of the game. Maccabi knew full well that in order to defeat Baskonia they would have to play lockdown, suffocating defense. They would have no other way to win had they not played tight, tight defense and that’s what they did allowing only 63 points to a solid offensive team. Coach Dusko Ivanovic said in his post game comments right off the bat that the Yellow & Blue’s key was D, “Maccabi played good defense tonight. They are a team that plays good defense, but above all, we played too slow and our five-on-five offense was too slow and too predictable.”
Coach Sfairopoulos was very content with how Maccabi took pride in their defensive game, “We knew if we did not play defense, we would not have a chance in the game, and that is why I want to congratulate my players because we followed our game plan, and we had our best game defensively so far.” Big man Othello Hunter also commented on the club’s effort, “We all played great defense, at the end of the day. We tried to get back to Maccabi ball. Everybody fought hard for the win, that’s all that matters.”
2) Defense, Defense, Defense. Not only did Maccabi play some great defense they did it down the stretch allowing only nine points in the final frame. Add to that the Yellow & Blue made no mistakes when it counted most and they came away with the win after having been so close in so many games this season making so many faux pas in the final seconds, but on the first night of Hanukah they were able to take the win. “I think that it was very important that in the last quarter we allowed only 9 points,” said Sfairopoulos. “That is when Baskonia, especially here at home, had its best scoring quarter.”
Chris Jones who played terrific ball during the second half spoke about how the team focussed on the small details and that was the key to the victory, “We fought hard and we spoke about that between us that it’s time for a momentum shift. That we need to be focused and fight for the little things. We kept them on 63 points and 9 points in the 4th which is great and shows how focused we were at the end.” Here’s Sfairopoulos with the last word on those tight games so far this season, “We had some games in the past that we lost in the last minute, six out of our eight defeats we lost in the last minute by a margin of 4 points or less. I think tonight we did everything the right way, we were very concentrated in every part of the game, especially at the end in the crucial moments, to play good defense and to score some easy baskets at the end to win the game.”
3) How important is a good Tyler Dorsey going forward in Euroleague play? That is what I asked coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos after Maccabi’s win over Nes Ziona earlier in the week in a game that Dorsey seemed to have snapped out of a slump as he took the bull by the horns and helped the Yellow & Blue to the league victory. Well, looks like the Nes Ziona win rubbed off on Dorsey in fine fashion. This is what the coach answered to my Dorsey question as he may have shed some light on his inconsistent play as well, “Tyler Dorsey is an important player of ours. Some players have ups and downs and players are staying at home and go to practice, home practice and they don’t go out. Psychologically it’s not easy and that’s why we have a lot of ups and downs.” Dorsey was all smiles after the game in Baskonia, “Defensively we got stops and that was a big key for us. (Youssoupha) Fall, we know he is big, and when he gets it down there, he got a lot of buckets tonight. But we controlled everybody else, that’s how we got the win tonight.”
Omri Casspi played some key minutes despite not scoring as he put in some solid minutes on defense as did Yovel Zoosman who made his 2020/21 Euroleague debut.
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) December 10, 2020
Baskonia shot a brutal 5/27 from behind the arc while Maccabi went 9/25 with Tyler Dorsey leading the way with a trio of triples.