The battle down low: Ante Zizic’s biggest test to date as Olympiacos looms

Jan 12, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv tips-off against Olympiacos in Euroleague Gameday 19 action this evening (21:05) at Yad Eliyahu. The Yellow & Blue’s record stands at 8-10 after defeating Alba Berlin last week in Germany and sit in 12th place while the Piraeus based squad are in 9th with a 9-8 record.

One of the challenges that Maccabi head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos will face against the Olympiacos is how to contain their big men inside the paint. Hassan Martin is slated to play alongside Octavius Ellis while the Yellow & Blue will counter with Ante Zizic and Othello Hunter but his participation may be limited due to a recent eye injury.

With most probably Zizic playing the bulk of minutes in the middle, Dragan Bender and Angelo Calaoiro will be counted on to pick up some of the slack down low. Georgios Bartzokas will have some bigs that will also feature with Hassan and Ellis including Georgios Printezis, Sasha Vezenkov and Livio Jean-Charles in the paint.

It’s interesting to note that Martin ranks second overall in 2-point percentage just at 75.53%, Ellis ranks 9th with 68.09%, Printezis is at 61.2%, Jean-Charles 57.4% and
Vezenkov 48.9%. In terms of Maccabi, Bender is 49th at 58.14%, Caloiaro is 57th with a 56.86%, Zizic is shooting 53.78% in 74th while Hunter is 93rd at 51.43%.

Mega advantage to Olympiacos scoring in the paint, it’s not even close.

As for rebounds, Maccabi has the better numbers with Zizic in 16th at 5.28 boards and Hunter with 5.06 while Caloiaro is at 4.2 and Bender pulls down 3.9 per game. Martin features roughly the same rebounds as Zizic with 5.29, Ellis sits at 3.7, Vezenkov is at 4 per contest, Printezis 3.1 and JC 2.5.

Maccabi gets the checkmark on the glass.

Let’s take a quick look at blocks. Ellis checks in with .88 in 8th and Hunter is in 9th with .81. Zizic finds himself on 15th with .72 and Martin is 21st at .59. However, we have to add Livio Jean Charles in the mix for Olympiacos who has .77 good for 13th while the balance are relatively non-existent.

We’ll give this to the Greeks as well.

The bottom line is, Olympiacos can do plenty of damage down low and should Hunter not play despite being listed, Zizic is going to have to burden the load. Thankfully for Maccabi, Zizic has started to pick it up of late both in the Euroleague and in Israeli games as coach Sfairopoulos will need to count on him and possibly play him in situations down the stretch which he hasn’t done this season primarily relying on Hunter when the team goes to a switching defense.

The bench boss seemed optimistic about what Zizic will be able to provide the Yellow & Blue in crunch time, “Ante is athletic too and he’s in his best shape. It’s normal that he would find this form as the season goose along and he is practicing and playing well as he has found his rhythm. He will be a big part if Othello isn’t ready.”

NBA veteran Omri Casspi who has taken the big man under his wing, laughed it off when it was suggested that he is the reason for Zizic’s revival, “Ante is very talented. He went to the US when he was very young where the game is different than Europe. There are variations of where to stand in the paint and other things. With the time now back in Europe the position is becoming clearer to him as to what the expectations are.

“He is working with a personal coach and even in games where he wasn’t as good we won. The first conversation I had about him was how can we get him into the picture and what do we need to do to do so. We need him and we have goals that we want to reach. He’s a great guy and we still have plenty to do.”

Zizic will have plenty to do that’s for sure especially if Hunter isn’t in the lineup and the battle down low will be the one that may decide this game. Watch our for shattered glass.

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