“We wanted to play Maccabi Basketball” Chris Jones gets Maccabi rolling with some help from Dorsey & Bender in win over Zalgiris: 3-Pointers, Analysis, Quotes & Highlights!

1) Maccabi Tel Aviv came into this game ready to go from the outset as Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos had his players going hard and aggressive out of the gate and that’s exactly what acting captain Scottie Wilbekin said team had to do from the get go. Starting with a guard heavy lineup of Wilbekin, Sandy Cohen and Elijah Bryant, Zalgiris didn’t know what hit them as the Yellow & Blue went at them hard by pressuring the Lithuanian club’s guards and not allowing them to get their shots off like they love to do. Coach Martin Schiller explained that his team was ready for Maccabi’s game plan and smaller lineup, “We weren’t surprised at all especially with their injury problems. Maccabi had to play Bender instead of the 4 at the 5 and they had to play smaller in general. If you do that at the bigs then you have to do that at the guards and that was a challenge with us missing players.” Sfairopoulos also spoke about the fact that his players put everything they had into the game and it certainly showed, “We had the best team game from the start of the season and they played with their heart. Not everyday will you shoot like we did but we can always play defense. We dove for the ball early and they showed how much they wanted it.”


2) Not only did Maccabi’s guards stop Zalgiris, they shot lights out especially from deep going 9/11 over the first half and scored 37 of Maccabi’s 53 points over the opening twenty minutes. You want more stats from that first half? How about these: Zalgiris 0/7 from 3 (1/14 for the game), Maccabi with 20 rebounds to10 for the visitors, 11 assists to 4 in favor of the Yellow & Blue and an efficiency rating of 72 (!) to 12. As we said that was quite the half as Maccabi put on a display and the best half of the season as well as complete game, by far. What you saw today is how we practiced and it was about time that we played how we practiced,” said Sfairopoulos. “We saw great covers between the players we had so many options and that showed that we played as a team defensively.” Chris Jones also looked at how Maccabi played on the defensive end, “Our goal was to come out and play hard. We pride ourselves on our defense and I feel like we showed that tonight. When you look at the game plan it’s kind of how we wanted to play. We executed it well and it worked out for us.” Tyler Dorsey chimed in as well, “Defensively we showed intensity and we sticked to the game plan. We knew what they wanted to do, we knew that they were playing the best offense right now in the EuroLeague. So defensive we came out strong and we continued it.” And the key to win according to Jones? “Just being ourselves going out to be Maccabi and play Maccabi basketball. Playing hard defense while missing guys and we showed what we can do and how dangerous we can be once we get our injured guys back.”


3) Welcome back to Maccabi Tel Aviv Dragan Bender. Finally the Bender has arrived at Maccabi! The fans, players, coaches and management got to see the Bender that they had expected when he joined the club a couple of months ago. 11 points in 18 minutes of play that featured just all around hustle and battle was Bender’s name of the game against Zalgiris. He drove strong to the basket, dove on the floor and showed that he cared; he was passionate on the court and that’s all what everyone asked of him. Show some feelings, show some care and he did. Maybe it was because he played the center position and not the power forward as he alluded to after the game as he gets more touches at the 5 than when he was at the 4. “I felt great and from the first minute that we came onto the court we played really good basketball together until the last minute,” said Bender. “That’s what we had been missing the last few games. Tonight we showed up.” Dorsey knew that Bender was going to be a critical piece of the pie with Othello Hunter out, “Othello does a lot for us and Bender was prepared tonight and so was the rest of the team. We needed this win bad, but we got to continue this.” Sfairopoulos also complimented Bender who is on a short term contract with an option to extend for the balance of the season at Maccabi, “Dragan Bender, Chris Jones and Oz Blayzer had their best games so far in the Euroleague. When you are focused you don’t turn the ball over. The mental preparation was 100% and that was shown moving the ball and we scored in the last seconds with options. That means we moved the ball really well. This is determination and being focussed.”


Was this game a must win for Maccabi? I would say that it was especially a must win with a trip to Spain for a pair of games at Real Madrid and Valencia. No trip to Spain is an easy one and Maccabi knows it. Should the Yellow & Blue have lost against Zalgiris they would have been sitting at 2-6 staring at 2-8 straight in the face. But with the win they are now 3-5, feeling upbeat and confident as they ready for Spain. Tyler Dorsey spoke about the upcoming road trip, “It brings is a lot of confidence. Winning brings positive energy and we have to take that to Spain; we got a tough week next week in Spain.” Jones also looked at next week’s challenges, “We’re going to play against two great teams next week and this game will help with our confidence and show what we are capable of. The ball hasn’t been going our way the last few games but the blowout win showed a lot.”

Dov Halickman Photography

And-1, And Some
How much pressure was on Maccabi to win? Coach Sfairopoulos explained how he views what pressure is, “I was thinking about what pressure means. How do people feel that have relatives in intensive care due to the coronavirus? You lost your job and you need to feed your kids, that is what pressure is. I don’t believe we have to talk about pressure. We have to fight hard and that is what we will do. We had lacked some details to get those wins in the past especially in EFES.”

Scottie Wilbekin may have only scored 10 points but he was plus +35 for the game! That is an incredible statistic.

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