Maccabi Tel Aviv finally won one of those close games, the type of game that is decided because of the small, little, eensy weensy details. The sort of contest that they have consistently lost all season long, but the victory couldn’t have come at a better time, against a wounded opponent in a game that as a must, must win as the campaign heads into the stretch run.
The Yellow & Blue downed Real Madrid 86-84 in what was a thrilling clash, a duel of the minds between Ioannis Sfairopoulos and Pablo Laso and a contest that went back and forth all the way to the end as Jaycee Carroll, one of the biggest all time Maccabi killers this past decade, couldn’t get a shot off on the final play to secure the win for the hosts.
Maccabi could have made their lives much easier as time ran out if Othello Hunter would have hit his free throws thanks to unsportsmanlike foul by Jeffery Taylor as well as Scottie Wilbekin only going 1 of 2 with seconds left on the clock.
“We fought to keep the lead with a lot of back and forth baskets” Sfairopoulos said. “We could have won the game easier by scoring the free throws but we played well defensively at the end and we took the win.”
But this game was Maccabi’s or more specifically Tyler Dorsey’s. The guard notched his Euroleague career high with 30 points which included five huge points to give Maccabi the hard earned victory. Dorsey has been consistently inconsistently throughout the entire season to date, but this win has his John Hancock all over it.
“I just stayed aggressive and that’s it,” explained the star of the show. “I caught the hot hand early and just continued to apply pressure like that.”
Dorsey was substituted into the game fairy early, just 2:24 into the clash replacing an ineffective Elijah Bryant, and went right to work with a trio of triples in a quarter that went Real Madrid’s way, but the stage was set for what was to come.
“Tyler changed the momentum offensively and that was important as we came back after a bad start to the game,” exclaimed Sfairopoulos. “I think Tyler had his best game at Maccabi in the two years he has been with the club. It’s not easy to score 30 points and to play well on both ends of the court.”
Despite missing a number of key players due to injury as well as Facu Campazzo who left for the NBA, Real Madrid is still, Real Madrid; an excellent team with a group of players who have been together for a very long time as well as one who also won the 2018 Euroleague title. Any time you can defeat Real Madrid, whether at home or on the road, you’ve done something right.
“We fought hard against a very good team with great quality and great experience, with players that have played a lot of years together with the same coach, the same philosophy. Even though Real has absences they are still a very good team and not easy to play against.” Sfairopoulos commented.
“Always beating Madrid is always a challenge and we’re happy to take the win tonight,” said Captain John Dibartolomeo who had a big hand in helping Maccabi not only lockdown on defense and coming back in the first half, but his mini-battle with Carroll was also enticing to watch.
Dibartolomeo also spoke about what it means to him personally playing a team like Real coming from a Division III school, “Playing against Madrid is something that is special and unique coming from my background from a lower level college. I try to not to think about in the moment but take it all in after the game.”
With a two games coming up next week, at Fenerbahce and home against Anadolu EFES, Maccabi will have yet another pair of big contests. By winning against Madrid, Maccabi has inched their record to 10-11, just one game under .500 with 13 games to go. Realistically, the Yellow & Blue will be very satisfied with a split after taking the hard earned win over Real and bought a little bit of breathing room, however, they would be thrilled to win both. Should they lose the two games, the curtain will be very close to be going down on the Euroleague season.
“We needed this win going into the double-week next week” Dorsey said. “I’m never satisfied with what I do and we have to continue to keep fighting and try to climb back up into the playoffs. There’s a long couple of months left before then, so we’ve just got to continue and keep fighting defensively.”
The intensity against Real Madrid was off the charts in what was an extremely well played game. Maccabi will need more of these types of games should they want to get to the promised land by the end of the regular season. Sfairopoulos had the club focussed on the singular goal of winning the game no matter what and at any cost.
“This was like a playoff game, a Final Four game. It was at that level,” the coach explained.
“Every game now is more important than the previous one and the next one is more important than this one. This game was important because we want to continue to fight for our chances. We fought tonight against a high quality team and we have to continue that and start a streak.”