Nes Ziona besting Maccabi Tel Aviv should come as no surprise as Lubin’s squad is on the way up with 5th win in a row

Dec 6, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Is anyone really surprised that Nes Ziona beat Maccabi Tel Aviv handily? If you are then you just haven’t been watching one of the most dynamic, fun, entertaining and exciting teams in Israel.

By downing Maccabi Tel Aviv not only has Lior Lubin’s squad won their 5th game in a row, they also leapfrogged over the Yellow & Blue and moved into 4th place over all with a 5-3 record. So good Nes Ziona has been Diante Garrett was named the league’s player of the month while Lubin took home the coaching honors.

ליאור ליובין

Diante Garrett, Yaniv MIzrachi and Lior Lubin – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


After starting the season in just brutal fashion at 0-3 in the Israeli league after being eliminated swiftly from the FIBA Europe Cup qualifying competition, a tournament that Nes Ziona had won last year, it looked as if Lubin was not only on the hot seat but could have been the first coach jettisoned from a team this campaign. Add to the fact that the club’s foreigner situation was that of a revolving door with absolutely no cohesiveness, it looked as if the club from Lev HaMoshava was going to be in for a long, long, long season.

However, five games later a superb play by Diante Garrett, Frank Bartley and Tim Soares to go along with Golan Gutt, all of a sudden Nes Ziona is hot, red hot. Add to that Lior Carreira who just returned from injury, veteran Tal Dunne and newcomer Simisola Shittu and BANG! Lubin’s team is in just terrific shape.

Simisola Shittu and Frank Bartley – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


The squad fights for every rebound, they battle for every loose ball and they have savvy veterans that know how to win.

And win they did in fine fashion over a broken down Maccabi Tel Aviv team that looked disoriented, disorganized and played just “balagan” basketball as coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos loves to put it. They played “balagan” basketball because Nes Ziona forced them to, by continuously frustrating the Yellow & Blue all game long.

“I want to congratulate Nes Ziona, they played better than us and they fought harder than us and they deserved to win the game”, Sfairopoulos said. “We were not ready mentally. We allowed a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half and the second half we had many turnovers and they scored easy points in transition.”

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Maccabi.co.il


Sfairopoulos called timeout after timeout and it was if he was just not getting through to the players. Whatever was said went in one ear and out the other and that was very good news for Nes Ziona and game MVP Frank Bartley, “We have the talent and we were able to beat a Euroleague team. We stayed together and we are fighting hard and practicing hard. If we play hard we have a chance to win. When you beat a team like Maccabi it gives us great confidence and I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”

Coach Lubin was also happy to dispose of Maccabi especially in front of their fans and on their home court, “We came in with good energy and we made sure to be focused on turnovers, offensive rebounds and other places where we were not allowing cheap points. We prepared for Maccabi for a while and we are continuing with the mindset that we had from before the international break. I am happy as to what has been happening here and despite starting off 0-3, we have been able to put things together.”

While Nes Ziona has been able to put things together, Maccabi has not as their Israeli league record is now 5-3 as they have been consistently inconsistent game in and game out whether it has been in the Euroleague or domestically.

Derrick Williams and Lior Carreira – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


“We have to understand why this is happening and we have to be more consistent. We have to find our consistency in our minds and then we will have consistency on the court,” Sfairopoulos said.

The consistency in their minds comes down to not having the right mentality entering the game and that is something Maccabi needs to understand. Every team out there wants to knock them off just as Bartley had mentioned and if the Yellow & Blue come in to play as if they deserve to win and that they will have a walk in the park, well then it certainly won’t be one. Instead it will be a long journey through a thorny situation.

“I spoke to the players in the lockerroom and if we don’t change our mentality we can’t win these games. We have to change our mentality and fight hard because each team comes to play hard against us. I believe in all of the players and what we saw today is not our level. Our quality and experience did not show on the court today.”

Diante Garrett – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


It was clear that Maccabi did not come into this game prepared for battle. A game that saw Maccabi commit 20 turnovers, a game that saw four players with a double digit minus, a game that saw them go to the charity stripe only 12 times compared to 25.

Who is to blame for that? The players or the coach?

“I think everyone wants to come to win and I believe that if we all come in with the mindset that we will be all over the court no matter who we face in the Euroleague or in the Israeli league then we will be fine. We are Maccabi and that is part of our DNA,” Oz Blayzer said following the game.

Is Sfairopoulos’s message getting through? Are the players taking his advice seriously? Or is it just getting stale and he has lost the lockerroom?

There seems to be frustration on both sides, but what is clear is that Lubin is very content as to how his team is melding as one, “I am happy as to how things are coming together and we want to make it to the playoffs where everything is open and anything can happen.”

Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

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