The best offense is a good defense: Maccabi Tel Aviv looks to hold Real Madrid at bay

Dec 1, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Real Madrid on Thursday night (21:45 Israel time) in Euroleague Gameday 13 play as the Israeli club looks to get back onto the winning track after a pair of continental losses over the past couple of weeks.

Pablo Laso’s team is definitely aiming for another Euroleague title, with them last one coming in the 2017/18 season with one Luka Doncic right before the superstar headed to the NBA. With new blood on the roster in Nigel Williams-Goss, Vincent Poirier, Thomas Heurtel and Guerschon Yabusele along with the long time veterans in Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Adam Hanga, Jeffrey Taylor and the ever imposing Water Tavares, Real has reloaded its squad for a run at the championship.

Nigel Williams-Goss – Photo Credit:

“We play against a team that is one of the main candidates to be in the Final Four,” Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos explained. “They are in great shape with five straight wins and have not lost at home yet. We play against a team that has players that can hurt you a lot. We have to play good defense and face them as a unit because if we only focus on a few players somebody else will do the damage. In offense we have to play smart.”

One of the keys for Laso’s crew is disrupting the opposition’s defense while scoring oodles of points. Real is averaging over 80 points a game while giving up a league low 71.25 points as they hold a tie for first place overall with Barcelona.

Maccabi, who had only given up 74 points a game over their first ten contests saw their defense exposed over the last two clashes, both losses to Olympiacos and ALBA Berlin which saw them give up 91 and 90 points respectively after having only given up an average of 74 points in the prior ten games. 16+ points per contest over the past two is quite the increase and that is something coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos is well aware of.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“We have to start concentrated and not let them get into a rhythm. We were not good defensively especially when you play away if you allow the home team to score 90 points you need to have a very good offensive game and this is difficult to happen in an away game.”

It’s been over a decade since the Yellow & Blue defeated Real in Madrid, when assistant coach Doron Perkins was on the floor for Maccabi. While forward Angelo Caloiaro wasn’t aware of the history, he fully understands what type of challenge they are up against.

“Any game on the road is tough and we want to go out and execute and play tough to give ourselves a chance. They are scary now especially on their home court and they only have two losses and are in first place.”

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

While Real may be “scary good” this season, Ante Zizic knows that Maccabi will come in looking to take care of business, ”It will be a difficult game, but after two losses, it is also a great opportunity to recover. Real is playing very well this year, but we are not afraid of them. If we stick to our game plan, we can win.”

But the real test against Real is trying to keep them at bay and concede as few points as possible while having the offense clicking Caloiaro said,”We struggled especially in the last game in Berlin We gave up way too many points. We are focussing on that and working on it.”

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