Shooters Shoot: Maccabi needs to be wary of Kazan’s bomb squad

Dec 9, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Hezonja, Brown, Brown, Canaan: BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes UNICS Kazan on Thursday at 21:05 in Euroleague Gameday 14 action as the Yellow & Blue will look to get back onto the winning track after having lost three continental clashes in a row and four out of their last five games. Their Russian opponent has been playing fine basketball of late having won 4 of their last five games but fell last week against Olympiacos.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team will have to be very conscious of the newly promoted team as they have not only been winning at a fine clip they are also in 7th place, one spot above Maccabi. The key for Velimir Perasovic’s club has been shooting and shooting and more shooting.

Inside or outside it doesn’t make a difference for Kazan as they can launch the ball from any angle and any location on the court. They like to score and score a lot of points to the tune of 83.5 points apr game over their last 8 matches where they sport a record of 6-2.

Mario Hezonja – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Mario Hezonja who moved from Panathinaikos to Kazan in the offseason, Lorenzo Brown who was with Red Star last campaign and Isaiah Canaan who was part of Kazan when they were promoted form the EuroCup all find themselves within the top 12 in field goal attempts taken in the Euroleague. Scottie Wikbein is the only Maccabi player who finds himself on that list while James Nunnally is 14th overall in Euroleague play.

When it comes to actually scoring those shots, Kazan still has all three within the top 12 but Wilbekin drops out of the list while Nunnally falls to 23rd overall.

Kazan can shoot and they can score too.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Euroleague

“Kazan have a lot of players who can cause you problems during the games, some from scoring some from defending and some both,” Sfairopoulos said at the pre-game press conference. “We need to be smart and attack them the right way on offense and not let their scorers have a good game.”

Maccabi will need a complete effort from everyone on their roster to get themselves back in the win column, a place that they are very well aware they need to get back into and into quickly. “Everyone understands the situation,” the newly engaged Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo said. “We want to win every game and protect home court. They are right next to us on the standings.”

Keenan Evans echoed his captain’s sentiments about finding a way to record the victory, “We have to have a higher sense of urgency and take advantage of their weaknesses and expose them. We have to match their energy early.”

Keenan Evans: Photo credit- Dov Halickman

Having a higher sense of urgency is a necessity after falling in Israeli league play to Nes Ziona earlier in the week in what was a very weak performance which showed that Maccabi just didn’t come into that game with the right mindset.

However, Sfairopoulos added that his team did enter the continental clashes ready to go, “We have to come more ready for the Israeli league games. We were ready for the game against Real Madrid where we had a good game. In ALBA, we didn’t play bad but we didn’t play good defense. It wasn’t like Olympiacos when we collapsed. We can have a game like that once a season. I don’t believe that we have to put all the games in the same group. I don’t remember a game at Rishon that we played so well. We have to change our mentality and how we play the Israeli league games.”

“We are still building our team and our game and learning how to play difficult games and 5 games in 11 days. The players are trying and I have no complaints about them. It’s logical that there are ups and downs during the season and it’s not just us but other teams as well.”

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

This matchup will certainly be a test of the Yellow & Blue’s fortitude as they need to desperately win the game in front of them while closing down Kazan and having gone through a rough month with many games abroad, Sfairopoulos is content to be back home and hopes to have a sold out arena for the latest test, “We flew five weeks in a row to play. This is the first week that we don’t fly and have a home game.”

But ultimately in order to make sure that they get back to their winning ways, Maccabi must take a good hard look at themselves Evans said, “We had to look at ourselves and look at what we were doing wrong, what we can do better. We gave to get back to playing our basketball.”

Sfairopoulos will look for Maccabi to fight and fight hard in this game and there is no doubt that they will do exactly that, “In Madrid we fight, Alba we lost in the details and Alba beat Milano after us. In the Euroleague everything can happen.”

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