PREVIEW: “EFES has players that can kill you” Ioannis Sfairopoulos looks ahead to Maccabi’s Euroleague game at Anadolu

Maccabi Tel Aviv heads to Istanbul to take on Anadolu EFES on Euroleague Gameday 7 action on Thursday at 19:30 Israel time. The Yellow & Blue come into the contest with a 2-4 record while the Turkish squad sits at 2-3 but will be without star guard Shane Larkin who just made his season debut last week while Bryant Dunston also won’t be available for the continental clash.

There’s no question that Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team has had trouble so far this season losing a number of games by very close margins while falling last week to Fenerbahce at home in Tel Aviv. EFES has also struggled mightily and are not the same team without Shane Larkin who once again won’t be playing for Ergin Ataman’s side.

Dov Halickman Photography

Not having Larkin totally changes the complexion of the game, but don’t think that Maccabi will now have a cakewalk victory just because the star guard won’t be in the lineup, EFES have plenty of other weapons at their disposal.

EFES still has a number of players who can shoot the 3-pointer which has been an achilles heel for Maccabi to defend after having given up 4 or more in each game to the following players so far this young season: Markus Ericksson, Mike James, Vladimir Lucic, Sasha Vezenkov, Alexey Shved and Bobby Dixon. Plus you can add Jarell Eddie who went 3/3 last week.

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Ataman still has Krunoslav Simon who is 12/22, Rodrigue Beaubois at 11/23 and Vasilje Micic who is having a brutal season from beyond the arc going 5/30 which is way off his 35.5% career 3-pt average.

Those players all shot lights out against Maccabi last season in the two games between the teams as Simon was 5/8, Beaubois checked in with 5/11 while Micic went 8/13, the Yellow & Blue better be ready to defend the perimeter or else they will add anther name to the hit list above.

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How will Maccabi defend against a trigger happy EFES? Coach Sfairopoulos knows that the key will be keeping to the game plan as the hosts have lethal shooters, “We must follow the tactics, commit and follow the plan both offensively and defensively. The tactics must be followed at the maximum percentage and that is how we will win the game.”

“They have players that can kill you and we have to follow our plan while staying concentrated for 40 minutes. If you lose it for 1 or 2 minutes this will be enough for EFES to kill you.”

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Every player on Maccabi will need to be tuned in on the defensive side of they game in order to keep EFES at bay and the fact that Ataman along with the vast majority of the roster remains from last season is obviously a big advantage whereas Maccabi has made numerous changes with 6 new players while having three injured in Omri Casspi, John DiBartolomeo and Yovel Zoosman.

“We’re facing a team that last year ha a great season who kept their roster and coach. Although they haven’t started well, they have showed that they can come back and play their style.”

“I spoke with all they players about being more effective defensively and I expect that the entire team will play better defense. We are still mixing the new and old players and we need to still know how to play defense as a unit.”

Dov Halickman Photography

One of Maccabi’s new players is Oz Blayzer who has featured for a number of teams in Israel, most recently for Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion who played in the EuroCup last year. The 27-year old has continued to climb through the ranks of Israeli hoops and is now taking his first steps into the deep water that is the Euroleague and so far he has not looked out of place. Sure he’s had better games than others but Coach Sfairopoulos knows that he can rely on his new forward.

Blayzer spoke about his experiences so far in the continent’s best league, “This is my first season at this level and I am getting used to it while also learning a lot as well. There is a great staff here which has been very helpful and I know that there will be ups and downs along the way but my goal is to keep moving upwards. I want to continue improving game by game and it’s a process. I want to show that I can be a legitimate Euroleague player.” So far so good.

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