Maccabi Tel Aviv were stunned by Valencia 82-80 in the final seconds of the game as a comedy of errors by the Yellow & Blue did the visitors in. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad took a 77-70 lead with 2:21 left in the contest but couldn’t hold on in the final minute as Derrick Williams hit a wide open 3-pointer with 7 seconds left to know up the score at 80-80. On the ensuing inbounds play between Scottie Wilbekin and Ante Zizic, Bojan Dubljevic stole the ball and sent it to Sam Van Rossom who put in an uncontested layup to seal the deal and take the shocking 2-point win which dropped Maccabi to 3-7 on the season.
Scottie Wlibekin scored 25 points and Angelo Caloiaro put in 15 points for Maccabi while Klemen Prepelic scored 22 points (4/6 from 3), Derrick Williams dropped 15 points and Mike Tobey added 12 points for Valencia.
1) Well, Maccabi Tel Aviv found a new way to throw away a game in a season that has seen many failures during the final minutes. However, this one has got to take the cake. I am not sure if I would have wanted to be on that flight back to Israel early Saturday morning after finding yet another way to embarrass the game of basketball. It’s clear, the Yellow & Blue are not the same team as last season. It’s clear that they aren’t mentally tough. It’s clear that there is something not right with the composition of the roster and it’s clear that yes, they are missing the injured squad members. Ioannis Sfairopoulos had this to say about the unfortunate sequence of events, “Unfortunately, some mistakes that we did gave them the chance to go to the line very easily, bringing the game to the situation in which it was [down to] one basket. In the end, we wanted to foul but didn’t have the time and didn’t find somebody to foul, so they scored the three. They tied the game and then, on the last play, we lost the ball. I think it was crucial that when we got the lead, we should have played one or two good defenses and finish the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and Valencia took advantage of all the effort in the last minute to win the game.” A comedy of errors in classic fashion did Maccabi in every which way possible.
2) What can Maccabi do at this point? That’s a super question. At 3-7 the season is coming close to being a third over and in the books as games continue to slip a way. The mental side of the team has got to be a tatters after a loss like that considering that they actually put in the effort after a lifeless game at Real Madrid. But it’s clear that what is missing is some serious toughness, both on the court and off of it. The Yellow & Blue need some brawn and mental stability as they campaign may be heading to a point of no return. “We battled harder today,” said Angelo Caloiaro. “There were moments our defense was really good, and that’s the biggest part we need to improve on and be more solid for 40 minutes. It’s been several games this season we should have closed out at the end, but all of them haven’t gone our way. We need to figure that out, get back to work, and stay positive.” They need to really figure that out because the amount of games they have actually lost in fine fashion must be a new world record or at least a Euroleague one. Coach Sfairopoulos echoed his forward’s thoughts, “I know it is a tough loss. From one side, we showed a different face, as we wanted, on the court. On the other side, we were sad we lost the game this way. It is sad but we need to overcome it, continue and learn from this, to break this bad momentum that we have, losing four or five games at the end.”
3) Scottie Wilbekin summed up the disastrous defeat perfectly, “It was a tough game one that ended in a way that you never want it to end. We fought hard, way harder than in the last game. But the last minutes we melted down and looking at the stats we had too many turnovers and our free throw percentage was bad. If we took care of those two things we would have won the game easily.” 16 turnovers and going 7/14 from the charity stripe is never going to win you any games and it didn’t in Maccabi’s case. Add to that Dragan Bender who played a team high 33:46 goinf 1/5 from beyond the arc is not gong to help matters especially how slow he looked on the game tying triple by Williams, plus Othello Hunter is clearly not himself going 3/9 from the field with only 3 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey scored just 1 point in 18+ minutes going 0/5 plus Chris Jones with only 3 points is no help as well. Maccabi has got to figure this out and figure this out fast as in the words of Simon & Garfunkel the season continues to “slip slidin’ away”.