The man in the middle: Ante Zizic anchors Maccabi in the paint as the Yellow & Blue ready to meet former teammates Dorsey and Acy

Nov 19, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Olympiacos on Friday night (21:00) as the Yellow & Blue will look to sweep their Euroleague double week and continue to climb the standings. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad will look to build off of their 95-84 win over Monaco while Georgios Bartzokas will try and get back onto the winning track after being blown out by Anadolu EFES 88-69.

The Piraeus based club will offer Maccabi plenty of challenges while they will also meet up with their former teammates in Tyler Dorsey and Quincy Acy in Greece for the first time since leaving the club.

Tyler Dorsey – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Dorsey has been scoring at a 12.4 points per game clip but only notched 2-points in this week’s game at EFES and he will certainly want to show that this performance was just a one-off.

“We have to change the chip in our minds because we have back to back games and a game that demands energy and fighting spirit. Olympiacos are strong and tough on the home court. They have players that can score a lot and they play good together. They weren’t close against EFES but we expect a tough game,” Sfairopoulos said.

Scottie Wilbekin who led Maccabi with 37 points in the victory over Monaco also chimed in about their Athens foe, “They are playing very well this year. It won’t be easy for a second game this week and they will want to bounce back after a tough loss.”

Tyler Dorsey and Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It will be nice to see Tyler and he’s playing well this year and I’m happy for him. Hopefully we can do a good job because if he gets going he can score 30 points. We have to focus on him on defense and make sure he doesn’t get going,” Wilbekin concluded.

“We know Tyler and Quincy very well but we can’t just focus on just these two players. They have Sloukas and Papanikolau who is playing better this season and they have players that are a threat in the paint,” Sfairopoulos said.

As for players in the paint, Maccabi has seen a huge difference in Ante Zizic and what he has been able to do for the club compared to last season. With a more mobile and spry Zizic who has been averaging 12.7 points and 6 rebounds which is a marked improvement over his numbers from last season when he checked in with 9.1 points and 5.4 boards per game. However, in reality it’s much more than that.

Zizic who is only 24-years old has already played a myriad of games for teams in Croatia, Darussafaka along with a featuring for the Cleveland Cavaliers where he made 113 appearances over the course of three seasons after having been selected 23rd overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2016 NBA Draft. Before he even suited up for the Celtics, Zizic was part of the Kyrie Irving trade which saw Isaiah Thomas along with Jae Crowder and the Croatian center head to the Cavs for the all-star guard.

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

While “Ziza” struggled mightily with Maccabi in his first year back in Europe, he is a totally different player this season Sfairopoulos said, “Ante is completely different than in the previous years. The time in the NBA took him out of his European rhythm. He started to fight and practiced over the summer and he is back to what he was from before he went to the NBA. He’s more athletic and fast, his body was blocked and now it’s unblocked. We can see a good athlete now. He can jump higher and is not getting as tired.”

When asked about the energy level that Maccabi will need in their upcoming game against Olympiacos after having played a tough Israeli league contest this past week which went to double overtime along with the Monaco game, Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos didn’t look too concerned, “We will try to do our best and have the players have enough energy. They will have to be ready. We need control the rhythm of the game and control the boards. They are very talented.”

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Big man Jalen Reynolds also looked forward to the Olympiacos challenge on Friday night, “They are a very good team and we have to be locked in as coach says we are only good as our last performance. It starts with defense and it can be a 30 point game for anyone. We have to rebound well and focus.”

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