“We have to bring the same aggressiveness” Even and Maccabi look to punch ticket to Euroleague postseason

Mar 28, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv heads into one of their most critical Euroleague weeks in recent history as they look to punch their ticket and participate in the postseason for the first time since 2015.

Last week the Euroleague administration voted to exclude the the three Russian teams, CSKA Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg and UNICS Kazan from the standings due to the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. That meant that the yellow-and-blue’s 1-3 record against those squads were taken off their overall record and they moved all the way up from 12th place to 6th place overnight. Add to that a pair of massive home victories over Milano and Real Madrid this past week and Maccabi now sports a record of 13-11 with four games left in the regular season.

Avi Even – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

On Tuesday, interim coach Avi Even’s squad heads to Greece for a date with 14th place Panathinaikos who have foundered all season long but usually put on a good show against Maccabi despite their struggles. Following their trip to Athens, the yellow-and-blue come right back home for a tilt against ASVEL Villeurbanne who find themselves in 13th position.

“This past week we won by our defense and kept the scores low, Even said. “We will have to bring the same aggressiveness against Panathinaikos. We are in a position that we want to win every game and we are in the final stages of the Euroleague season. We want to finish with the best record that we can.”

John Dibartolomeo- Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Maccabi Captain John Dibartolomeo also looked ahead to the latest challenge in a season that has been full of them, “It’s a different challenge. At home we have our crowd, they have been amazing. We had a good week, we have some good momentum going we will try to get even better. This is a big test for us. They have a bunch of weapons. We need to be focused on all of them, that will be key for us.”

With two strong performances Maccabi could clinch a postseason spot with two games to spare and taste the quarterfinals since Guy Goodes was the head coach. Back in the 2019/20 campaign, the Israeli squad did in fact advance to the postseason but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the season was cancelled in March and the playoffs did not occur.

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Last week, Maccabi pounded Milano 75-58 with big men Ante Zizic and Jalen Reynolds playing a central role in the victory dominating the inside of the paint while on Thursday they slipped by Madrid 75-74 in frantic fashion going on a 10-0 run over the last 5:41 of the game to snatch the win away at the last moment thanks to clutch Scottie Wilbekin free throws.

“I like to deal with the here and now and not speculation,” Even downplayed when asked about the playoffs. “We still have other games to play to get into the playoffs and we are showing character. If we continue like this, we will get there and we can be legitimate playoff team.”

Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Derrick Williams feels that Maccabi is a legitimate Final Four threat, “Ya, I think that. We have the roster and fan base and we have everything. Fans, team and a little bit of everything to get to the Final Four. We want to take it one day at a time and we have an important road game coming up at Panathinaikos. It was a great double week for us.”

Scottie Wilbekin was much more reserved with his Amare when queried about the playoffs, “I don’t know, we will see. We’re getting closer to the end of the season and we will see soon.”

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Both Milano and Madrid have already clinched playoff berths and will have home advantage in the best of five quarterfinal series. Maccabi will need to be careful with their upcoming games by not letting their guard down against two of the weaker teams in the competition and clinch a postseason place themselves which less than a week ago seemed to be unrealistic. They can’t afford to look this gift horse in the mouth.

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