Roman was built in a day – Maccabi big man shines in win over Panathinaikos

Oct 22, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Rome may have not been built in a day but Roman certainly was against Panathinaikos. Sorkin, who came off of the bench, injected some serious life into a Maccabi Tel Aviv team that slipped by the Greek Greens 77-73 with his bog frame that was able to yank down rebounds, pick up some blocks and also put the hammer down in the paint for some electrifying baskets. And you know what the best thing about Sorkin is? He just doesn’t get flustered or frustrated on the floor as he oozes positivity in the most modest of ways.

Maccabi were up 64-44 with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter and Sorkin who had scored 9 points (4/4) and grabbed 6 rebounds was substituted out of the game as the building just started to come down. The lead evaporated so quickly that the Yellow & Blue had no clue as to what had happened along with Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos as their backs were swiftly put against the ropes with PAO trying to land the decisive, crippling blow.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo CredIt: Dov Halickman

The 20-point lead went down to 10 points just a minute and change later while it was cut to just to just 4 points with less than a minute left on the clock. Thankfully for Maccabi Scottie Wilibekin hit his shots and free throws when they counted most, Angelo Calaoiro had a big bucket as did Derrick Williams and Maccabi escaped with the victory by the hair on their chin, chin, chin.

Had they not, who knows how long a night everyone would have been in for including Sfairopoulos who could have seen an exit stage left.

“Oh my god, way too dramatic,” James Nunnally who earned the game’s MVP award said. “We were up by 15 plus. We gotta be better at finishing out games, especially at home. We need to just keep playing our game. Do what got us the lead. We stopped doing that. That’s why they came back.”

Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Derrick Williams entered the press room following the game and let out a big sigh of relief, “I’m glad we won and that’s the main thing. I feel like it was the first time we stepped up and brought it to them in the first quarter. Usually we are done before we do that. James (Nunnally) played amazing and got us going. We have to fix the last few minutes but it’s another win in Euroleague and we gave to keep going.”

Of course, it’s always better to fix things up after a win ad Maccabi did what they needed to do to move their record up to 3-2 on the season with a winless Zalgiris coming in on Tuesday night for a home double week.

“They scored 33 points in the last period even though we kept them to 23 points in the first half,” explained Sfairopoulos. “They came back into the game. For sure we take away from the win how we played the first three quarters. And we need to improve the last minutes. We need to control the game better if something does not go well.”

Keenan Evans & Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

It was clear that when the heat was on, Maccabi strolled and struggled mightily at home as the fans could sense the jitters and also began to groan and groan loudly as the lead kept being sliced and sliced and sliced.

“I am very satisfied with the win although we need to improve the moments when something doesn’t go well and we collapse so easily,” Sfairopoulos said.

The question is how to make sure the team doesn’t fall apart and fold like a cheap suit down then stretch and perhaps, just perhaps a player like Sorkin who just seems as cool as cucumber would have been a player who could have helped out during those nervy moments. One thing that as noticed was that he was cheering on the team along with fellow Israeli Iftach Ziv from the bench when the going got tough and that was very, very good to see.

“We played a really good 35 minutes,” Sorkin began. “But we let it go at the end and we have to work on our play when things aren’t going well. We got the win and now we are looking forward to the next match.”

“I waited for my chance and I didn’t do anything special. My teammates got me the ball and I wanted to play good defense and I am happy that I succeeded. Every game that I get onto the court I feel a part of the team as I always try to cheer them on and give them a good word.”

Sfairopoulos was happy to compliment the youngster, a player that he has mentioned on numerous occasions that he had wanted to bring in as well as Derrick Williams who he knew would be just the right player for these types of situations, “Roman was very good and so was Williams who has a lot of experience and helped the team. Roman fought under the basket with his big body, they both had good games and they can also play better.”

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Williams also spoke about how Sorkin has been developing over the past couple of months and what he believes the Israeli big man can develop into as he continues to expand his game and learn from the best.

“Roman, he’s going to be a great player and the main thing is he listens. He always takes advice from me, James and the coaches and he’s open to criticism and he’s not worried to make mistakes. He can finish by the rim and he can block shots protect the rim, for him simple is more. James said in the locker-room that he’s a Euroleague player. He’s going to be here for a long time.”

There is no question that Sorkin appreciates what these guys can offer him in terms if education and how to become a better basketball player that will play at the highest levels himself, “I try to always ask players like James and Derrick questions about the game as they both played in the NBA and at the highest levels of the game of basketball. I want to take advantage of their knowledge and learn from them. They are good guys from who I can continue to learn from.”

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

At the end of the day a win is a win and that is what is most important especially at these early stages of the season. Better to win and be up in the standings instead of having to dig out of a massive hole and try to climb to .500. Right now Maccabi finds themselves 1 game over that mark and that is how they have to look at the season; one game at a time and make sure that they remain with a positive record.

But in order to do that, the team has to stay cool, clam and collected throughout the full 40 minutes and not panic in crunch time.

Scottie Wilbekin had issues in the first half, but when crunch time came around, the star guard was there once again when the team needed him most summed up the game in his comments, “We played good defense except for the last part of the fourth quarter. That’s not how we want to finish the game. We’re up 20, we want to finish the game up 20. But the important thing is we got the win.”

Yes, Maccabi needed to finish the game up 20, but the most important thing was to get the win and that’s what they did.

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