No love lost: Zoosman and Blatt school Maccabi Tel Aviv to take 96-81 win for ALBA Berlin

Nov 25, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to ALBA Berlin 91-86 as former Yellow & Blue swingman Yovel Zoosman took down his former team and earned bragging rights until the next time the two squads meet in Israel during the second round of Euroleague games.

The German squad controlled the pace of play from the get go as Marcus Eriksson, Christ Koumadje and Maodo Lo helped Israel Gonzalez’s team to a 45-35 halftime lead. Zoosman and fellow Israeli Tamir Blatt then took center stage as they both dialed up long distance to salt the game away for Berlin.

The loss moves Maccabi’s record to 7-5 on the season with a trip to Madrid on tap next week where the Yellow & Blue will look to halt their two game skid.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Scottie Wilbekin scored 22 points, Ante Zizic added 17 points and Derrick Williams scored 15 points in the loss. Eriksson led ALBA with 19 points, Koumadje added 12 points, Maodo Lo scored 11 points, Zoosman out in 8 points while Tamir Blatt chipped in with 6 points in the win.

This was a game for Yovel Zoosman, nothing more and nothing less as his team took it upon themselves to make sure that they would be the ones walking away with the win despite coming into the contest with a 3-8 record which in a game like this means absolutely nothing.

Zoosman hit a big 3 down the stretch, Zoosman showed an attitude that we hadn’t seen when he was with Maccabi, Zoosman showed passion, desire and a lot of aggression against a coach and a team that he certainly wanted to send a message too.

When Zoos let that shot go from the corner and it went right in, it was an if a dam had burst and his emotions came pouring out, emotions that had been bottled up for a very, very long time.

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: ALBA Berlin

Zoosman’s Israeli teammate Tamir Blatt also chipped in to help ALBA take the victory with a clutch long, long distance triple that earned plenty of kudos from his teammates as he did his part in the win. In fact the pair combined for 14 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists which was 14 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists more than Maccabi’s Israelis. Not a good look at all.

Zoos didn’t need to look over his shoulder if he missed a shot or made a mistake which is what he always had to do under Ioannis Sfairopoulos as he was one of the if not his favorite whipping boy. At ALBA, the Sabra has an important role and always plays roughly 20 minutes game in game out on a consistent basis while Blatt usually puts in a quarter hour of work.

“We have two guys from Israel and I know this game means a lot to them,” Koumadje said following the win. “The whole team knew so we came out and played for our brothers.”

And play they did. Out hustling Maccabi, out playing Maccabi, out wanting Maccabi. Maccabi didn’t play defense and they paid a very heavy price for that because when you score 86 points on the road, you’ve got to win the game and the Yellow & Blue didn’t.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“We lost the game from our bad defense,” Sfairopoulos said. “We allowed ALBA to play in their rhythm of the game. It’s very hard to play away and give 91 points and win. We scored 86 points and we scored on good percentages but the defense was not enough and tough enough to stop the offensive cooperation.”

Wilbekin agreed that Maccabi’s D was lacking and non-existent, “Our defense was missing and they made tough shots. They took advantage and hit at a higher percentage than they normally do and scored more points than they averaged. That was one of our focusses and we failed at it.”

Although Maccabi ignored who they were playing all week long and made sure not to mention Yovel Zoosman, it really didn’t matter at the end of the day as the silent treatment just backfired and backfired badly.

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

The only reference heard all week out of the Maccabi camp was from WIlbekin after the game in reference to his 3-pointer, “It was just a big 3 and we were trying to come back. It hurt as it stopped our run.” Scottie didn’t even utter his name as if he is persona non grata, which in fact he really is.

Following the game, Zoosman took the high road although it’s much easier to do so after a win than a loss, “For me personally the game today had a special meaning, but the only thing that counts is the victory. We played with a lot of energy today and fought hard throughout the whole game. I played for Maccabi for six years, I am familiar with the system and I am friends with many of my former teammates. I am also grateful to Coach Sfairopoulos. But now I’m in a different place, with a different team, and completely committed to ALBA.”

One player that wasn’t teammates with Zoosman is Derrick Williams and he also chimed in on the loss, “It’s tough and it’s not a good showing by us after two games on the road. Last game it was a bad first quarter and we couldn’t get stops and today we couldn’t get key stops and they played amazing.”

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

They played amazing because Maccabi allowed them to. Perhaps they needed a lockdown defender like Zoosman to stop well Zoosman or Eriksson or Lo or Koumadje.

Yes, ALBA shot high percentages going 19/32 from two and 15/29 from three which are certainly not your normal numbers but one of the issues here is that Maccabi was soft and didn’t show the bite you’d want to see especially when there were a few hundred fans in the stands in Berlin.

Zoosman showed the exact opposite of Maccabi and at times even went a little bit “too wild” as Luke Sikma had to grab him and calm him down.

But no bigger compliment could have been paid when coach Gonzalez took Zoos out to a standing ovation (not from the Maccabi fans) and replaced him with Blatt to end the game.

Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maybe next time Maccabi will face the challenge of playing Zoosman straight up instead of pretending that there is nothing going on. Zoos didn’t and neither should have Maccabi.

The players should have been ready to roll and play for their coach knowing exactly how much a win would have really meant.

Instead of hiding from the challenge Maccabi needs to face it head on, because at the end of the day there is no love lost between the the two.

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