Walking the fine line: Maccabi squashed at Olympiacos need to find a way to expand rotation

Nov 20, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv were squashed by Olympiacos 90-73 as the Yellow & Blue’s former guard Tyler Dorsey starred in the victory as he helped leads the hosts to the blowout win. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad came out flat and allowed Georgios Bartzokas’s team to run wild over the course of the opening 10 minutes to a 35-8 and never looked back to take the easy win.

Kostas Sloukas led the way with 18 points, Dorsey added 17 points a number of his baskets coming in the first quarter, Sasha Vezenkov chipped in with 14 points and 6 assists while Moustapha Fall recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go along with 5 assists. James Nunnally paced Maccabi with 14 points and Roman Sorkin added 10 points in the loss.

It shouldn’t have been to anyone’s surprise that Maccabi Tel Aviv came out flat as a pancake and with absolutely zero and I mean zero energy in this game. After having played a double overtime game against Hapoel Eilat with the majority of the Euroleague starters plus coming off of a home win on Wednesday against Monaco, Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad was tired, dead tired.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“Tough night for us,” Sfairopoulos began after the loss. “Very bad start. It was obvious that we started the game without concentration. But also not enough energy to match the speed game of Olympiacos. When you start so bad in the first quarter and you are not mentally ready to play a tough game then it’s very difficult to come back.”

“We play a lot of games and the Monaco game this week demanded a lot of energy from us to overcome and win the game. So I think maybe this is the reason why we lacked the energy and also concentration because if your body is not fit your mind is not ready to respond. We tried to fight the other three quarters but the difference was so big that we couldn’t do anything better.”

This all comes back to the league game against Eilat where the bench boss had to play his Israeli players who just didn’t feature prominently including Iftach Ziv, Oz Blayzer, Jake Cohen and John Dibartolomeo. These are the players that have to check in with serious Israeli league minutes and not Scottie Wilbekin, James Nunnally and Jalen Reynolds.

This can’t be the case at Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion who they play on Sunday night. Sfairopoulos has to get his Israeli players minutes, get them work and make sure that they can be trusted when called upon. The last thing that the coach and Maccabi as a whole want to see is a team that played as they did at Olympiacos which was just utterly embarrassing.

Kameron Taylor – Photo Credit: Euroleague

At this point of the season the Euroleague is far, far more important than than the Israeli league and it’s not easy to dance at two weddings as they say. The priority has to be the continental clashes and that wasn’t the case this week.

Of course, that’s not to say that Maccabi threw away this game and just didn’t care. They cared. But they has also won two Euroleague games this month and have a trip to Alba Berlin next week which on paper shovel be a win. With a 7-3 record heading to Piraeus, Maccabi had a margin of error to play with and they did.

Maccabi didn’t want to be 3-3 in domestic play if they had lost to Eilat. But on the other hand the Yellow & Blue needed to prioritize and even a home game versus a game Red Sea squad was not one that was a “must” win.

The club wants to win every game, that is clear and it’s also something that can be accomplished but Sfairopoulos must begin spreading game minutes around and use some of these Israeli league games to compensate for the lack of a proper pre-season. And that is especially true of his Israeli players. But it’s also about walking that fine line.

Captain John Dibartolomeo is aware that Maccabi needs to come in ready to go from the outset of any game and that will have to be the case against Rishon on Sunday as they will want to correct what went wrong in Greece.

John DiBartolomeo and Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“Tough game for us,” Dibartolomeo said. “They jumped on us from the beginning and we didn’t start well. We tried to react in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters but we weren’t able to dig ourselves out of the hole. We need to learn from it and move on and play better against Rishon.”

Roman Sorkin who joined the Yellow & Blue this off-season has thus far left a good impression on the coach as he continues to earn Euroleague minutes and has become an integral part of the club in the Israeli league games where he was the only Sabra to clock in with serous minutes against Eilat.

“I think things didn’t go our way at all at the beginning of the game. Then we chased them and it was difficult. The second half was better. We need to learn from this and be focused from the first minute. We need to focus on our next league game now and play strong.”

Derrick Williams & Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

As for his adjustment in continental play, the Oregon product has seen how the leagues are extremely different in many ways, “It’s a very high level with the intensity and everyone is bigger who play smart. It’s just a much higher level. We have to come in focussed because one game you can win by 20 and the next you can lose by 20. We have to come ready from the first moment.”

Sfairopoulos will need to put this Euroleague game behind the team quickly and move on as he explained, “We need to forget this game because the EuroLeague is a marathon and it’s a tough season and if you think about one game you will lose the next one. We need to learn how to get ready and get prepared after a difficult game.”

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