Maccabi Tel Aviv ran right into a brick wall in Fenerbahce as Igor Kokoskov’s crew were just that much better than the Yellow & Blue. There’s nothing to be ashamed about it. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad fought the good fight and even went into halftime down by only 1-point 36-35, but as they say, the cream rises to get top and that’s certainly the case with Fenerbahce. They are the cream of the crop having won 7 games in a row and have not lost since the acquisition of game changer Marko Guduric.
“I think today we had a good fight against Fener, but lately they have played really good and they are in their best form,” explained Sfairopoulos following the game.
The bottom line is that Fener is really, really good. They can punish you for any little mistake you may make and they can also score in bunches very quickly making a 1-point lead into a 10-point lead in what seems to be just mere seconds.
Maccabi tried on numerous occasions to cut the lead which they were able to do at times, but at the end of the day, Fener took care of business and scored the win Sfairopoulos said, “I think in the second half, two-three times Fener got a double-digit lead. In the beginning, we came back. I think we came back to 4 points, It was very difficult to stay in the game. We tried to come back with shots from outside, but Fener has very experienced players, they know how to play in these moments and they won with this with defense.“
“[The key to resisting Maccabi’s comeback was] staying together and trusting what we do,” said Dyshawn Pierre, one of the Fenerbahce stars with 15 points on the night. “We were very scrappy on defense and we’ve been trying to keep that mentality the whole time.”
But what separates a team like Fenerbahce to a team like Maccabi is the good old small details that we have spoken about so many times this season. Those are the things that separate the haves and tag have-nots. Game after game the Yellow & Blue players have talked about the little details as being the reason for a win or a loss, last week it was a victory over Real Madrid where Maccabi had the small details ironed out but that wasn’t the case against Fener.
“In some crucial moments,” began Sfairopoulos. “Small things, small details went not to our side, they were to the side of Fener.”
“We played well, just missed some minuscule details that we will clean up. They are a great team and they got us tonight,” said Elijah Bryant and help right, Maccabi did play well, it’s not like they were totally outgunned and out played. But Fener were just better, much better.
Maccabi won the battle of the boards 32-24 and had more assists 20-19 but it wasn’t enough when the Istanbul based team’s 2-point percentage was 24/33 72.7%! They had a party in the paint.
Kokoskov knows that the Yellow & Blue are a solid side that are going to play hard night in and night out and he had to make sure his team were well prepared for battle, “There’s no such thing as a bad win in the EuroLeague or a bad glass of wine. This is a good win for us. A tough team to play. They have so many weapons, so many guys who can break the paint, who can get in the lane, drive and then that open three-point shots, which is the winning shot in the game of basketball.”
Fenerbahce made sure to close up shop in the final frame to ensure they chalked up the W and moved on to their next prey as they search for their 8th straight win.
“It’s very important for the playoff race and winning seven in a row is tough, but we’re trying to have the next-game mentality and that’s really the important thing,” said Pierre.
“I think we played a good hard fought game,” said Tyler Dorsey who scored 9 points. “I think it just came down to getting stops in 4th quarter and we just didn’t get those stops. We were right there all night but Pierre hit a lot of tough shots in a row which gave them that lead they needed in the 4th. From there It was hard to climb back into the game with not much time at the end.”
Credit goes to Sfairopoulos for having his guys out there battling which should keep Maccabi in the race for a playoff spot for as long as they can be. But this season it always seems to boil down to this small details, the details that the playoff teams know how to take care.
“Maybe we didn’t play the smartest game,” the former Phoenix Suns coach said. “But we played with a lot of energy, especially when the game was on the line, coming up with those 50-50 balls, defensive rebounds and playing together, playing for each other and willing to sacrifice for the team.”
And that my friends is why Fener is climbing swiftly up the standings because they have the combination of both the small details and the fact that the players are there for each other. There’s no question that Maccabi has the latter, it’s the former that they are still trying to figure out. The cream is rising to the top, the question that remains is can Maccabi figure it out in time to move upwards as well?