Taking care of the ball: Maccabi holds onto rock in all-around team performance to take win over Eriksson-less Berlin

Jan 26, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv did what they needed to do and what they should have done; beat ALBA Berlin. While it wasn’t as easy as they had perhaps hoped in a game that included the required late scare, the Yellow & Blue were able to rally back after seeing their 17 point lead evaporate to just 3, to win the game 87-78.

Both on paper and in reality, Maccabi is a better team than Israel Gonzalez’s squad who while can put up a good fight, but are just not the same caliber which makes Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s first round loss against ALBA even that more painful.

It shouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to understand that the German’s didn’t arrive in Israel in optimal shape without their most prolific shooter in Marcus Eriksson due to a foot injury. The Swede time and time again puts the dagger deep inside of any team and while former Maccabi swingman Yovel Zoosman did his best to make up for some of the lost points with 10 while going 2/3 from beyond the arc, it was not enough on this night.

Without Eriksson’s shadow hanging over Maccabi following a devastating Derby loss to Hapoel Tel Aviv just 48 hours prior, Scottie Wilbekin reverted back to Scottie Wilbekin with a fabulous 18 point, 6 assist and 3 steal performance and Keenan Evans was the Keenan Evans of last week when the Israeli champs drubbed Olympiacos at home. Maccabi had five players in double-digits in this all around team showing.

Marcus Eriksson – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

Instead of coughing up the ball close to 20 times, they committed only 5 turnovers, just one more than the previous Euroleague contest as Evans once again took care of the ball as if it was his only baby. With 9 points, 8 assists and 3 steals, including a massive dunk as the game neared its end to give the team some breathing room, the first year Maccabi man was stellar once again as the club still is in search of the stability and consistency between the team’s play in the Euroleague and the Israeli league.

“That’s the one thing we got to do better and I take responsibility for that,” Evans remarked as he looked at the possibility of Maccabi finding a way into the playoffs. “If we’re not turning the ball over, we are playing a great game. We have to take it game by game and not look too far ahead. We are focusing on that and we have try to treat the Winner League games like Euroleague games.”

For Maccabi’s most consistent player across both competitions, Ante Zizic keeps playing as to what was expected from the big man; controlling the paint and pouring in points with 14 more against Berlin to keep his average right about 13 for the season.

“Big win for us and we showed our character,” the Croatian began. “We are right there, close to .500. We have a tough schedule but it is what it is. We have enough games to play and win to make the playoffs, that is our goal and we are not stopping. If you can beat Olympiacos and Barcelona, then you can beat anyone and our goal is the playoffs.”

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Coach Sfairopoulos’s talk with the players following the Derby loss obviously worked wonders as Maccabi found their way back to the basketball that wins games and that is no doubt by playing a team game.

“We had a very good game and a good reaction after a very bad game a few days ago. It’s obvious from the 5 turnovers, that we controlled the tempo of the game from the beginning to the end. Five players had double digit points, we had 20 assists, 5 turnovers and 10 steals. That was very crucial when ALBA came back, there was a moment we stole the ball two or three times in a row, scored some easy baskets and sealed the game. We need to continue and be more stable with our performances.”

While Eriksson carved up Maccabi with 19 points while hitting 5/8 from deep the last time the two sides met in Germany, his teammates only attempted 13 shots in total from at Yad Eliyahu which was way, way off of the usual volume of 26(!). While the marksman averages just a clip over six 3-point attempts per game that would have put the team’s output at 19 for the game and still off of a potential game total of the aforementioned 26.

The bottom line is, Maccabi made sure to not allow Berlin to kill them from downtown and while they did go 7/13, the Yellow & Blue did a superb job on their perimeter defense with John Dibartolomeo earning a ton of credit and minutes from Sfairopoulos to be that stopper while also hitting a key late triple, “John is playing well on defense and on offense and he’s giving what he can give and I’m very happy with his performance.”

Luke Sikma – Photo Credit: Euroleague

“We tried not to let them be aggressive in our home court. We tried to slow down the game, win the game and stick to our game plan,” Sfairopoulos said. “We had good rotations and contested their perimeter shooting and cut down their shots. They depend on their 3-point shooting and cutting them down was important. They also have the most points on transition and we didn’t allow them to attack in the open court.”

Truth be told, the 3-point shooting really was the decisive factor in this game.

Maccabi was slated to host Fenerbahce on Thursday, but due to Covid-19 cases piling up on the Turkish squad, the game was postponed. This was somewhat of a disappointment for the club as they would have loved to go into that game in good shape against a beat up team that would also be missing a number of their stars due to injuries as well.

“We would have been looking forward to play that game after this win,” explained Evans. “But we also got COVID recently and we got away with some games postponed. We have to be ready for them when we do play them.”

Sfairopoulos didn’t opine either way about the game being pushed off, “It is what it is and COVID is happening everywhere and you can’t schedule anything. We have more days to prepare for the next game and on the other side we will have a few more double weeks later either way.”

Kameron Taylor – Photo Credit: Euroleague

On the topic of double weeks, Maccabi is slated to travel to Lithuania for a date with Zalgiris on Tuesday and then head to Germany where they will visit Bayern Munich. It still remains to be seen of the Zalgiris game will take place due to a COVID outbreak but what is certain is that Kameron Taylor won’t be with the team after the Euroleague rookie was loaned out to Strasbourg. Taylor ended up having his best game for the Yellow & Blue with 11 points in 23 minutes before fouling out.

“It always hurts to see a player go and he’s a great player for us. We’re sad to see him go and it was fun to be his teammate,” Evans said.

Up next for Maccabi is an Israeli league game against Hapoel Holon on Saturday night and it’s not clear as to what type of condition Guy Goodes’s team will be coming into the game after, yes, yet another COVID situation that saw 5 players and 2 staff members infected with the virus. As for what Sfairopoulos will be doing on Thursday night instead of coaching? “I’ll be preparing for Holon,” he said with a smile.

Sign up for our newsletter


You may also like…


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!