The impossible is always possible – Maccabi defeats Khimki 76-71

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Khimki 76-71 in Russia to keep their slim hopes alive for a Euroleague playoff spot. Johnny O’Bryant recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Michael Roll scored 17 points, Angelo Caloiaro dropped 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds while Jeremy Pargo chipped in with 12 points and 5 assists for Maccabi in the win. Alexey Shved scored 17 points and Jordan Mickey added 14 points in the loss.

The host’s jumped out to a 19-5 lead thanks to a pair of triples by Shved, but Roll began to help Maccabi get back into the game after ten minutes and we’re down 24-15. Roll, O’Bryant and DiBartolomeo all drained 3-pointers and Caloiaro’s 3-point play gave the Yellow & Blue a 40-39 lead at halftime.

Roll and O’Bryant got to work again to extend the Maccabi lead to 59-55 after thirty minutes but Shved and Sergey Monia kept the game close early in the 4th quarter. Once again the duo of Roll and O’Bryant gave the Yellow & Blue some breathing room but Mickey pulled Khimki to within 71-69 as time wound down. However, Scottie Wilbekin scored his first field goal of the night and Pargo hit a long distance 3-pointer to wrap up the 76-71 win.

1) Maccabi kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a grind it out win in Russia. Maccabi’s defense and rebounding prowess were the keys in taking home the win as both sides struggled from the field. Khimki’s game plan was to neutralize Tarik Black which they did very efficiently as the big man had only 1 point in 21 minutes of play while Maccabi eliminated Shved who although scored 17 points did so on 5/20 from the field. Coach Sfairopoulos talked about stopping Shved about the win, “Good defense was the key, especially on Shved – he scored 17 points but with low percentages.”

2) Khimki took a crazy 19-5 lead to start the game and it looked as if Maccabi were going to be blown out of the water, or literally out of the snow. But in came Roll, Jake Cohen and Alex Tyus and little by little, the Yellow & Blue came crawling back in the first quarter while John DiBartolomeo, and a revitalized Caloiaro and O’Bryant cut the gap to give Maccabi the lead by halftime. A heroic effort for a team that could have easily folded like a cheap suit. O’Bryant spoke about the effort made by the bench, “It was a tough win, Khimki is a great team at home. We started slow but kept going and got back in it. The second unit came in, got the momentum and then we kept going.” Roll also commented on the hard fought win, “It was one we needed, absolutely, especially after the last two losses. We came out to fight through it and play with energy. It’s a big one. Our second unit came in and really sparked us. We started slow but they came out and got a couple of steals and easy buckets in transition, and that got us going.”

3) Rebounds were another key factor in the Maccabi win as Sfairopoulos’s squad grabbed 54(!) of them compared to 35 by Khimki. However, the Yellow & Blue had double the amount of turnovers 16 to 8 and if Khimki could have converted a couple of those the story would have been much different. “For sure both teams had chances to finish the game earlier,” explained Sfairopoulos. “But finally at the end we had clear minds and good decisions, we also got two offensive rebounds at the end which was important, and I think we deserved to win.” Wilbekin who had been a non factor all night hit a big shot as did Pargo who although struggled from the field going 2/8 made all of his 6 free throws. Add in Caloiaro’s 6 offensive boards of the team’s 15 and you’ve got a gutsy performance and a win.

Maccabi is still in the game as they say and can theoretically take a playoff spot if they go 15-15 but they’ll need plenty of help. Milano must lose their last two games, at home against Feberbahce and on the road at EFES to finish 14-16. Olympiacos needs to lose two home games against Zalgiris and Darüşşafaka because they hold the tiebreaker against Maccabi. Zalgiris will need to lose to Real Madrid in Spain. Bottom line, they need a miracle. That miracle didn’t happen on Purim when Zalgiris beat Maccabi once again, however, we are a people who live on miracles day after day and the impossible for the Yellow & Blue is always possible.

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