“We were aggressive” Maccabi slips by Barcelona 68-67

Maccabi Tel Aviv squeaked by Barcelona 68-67 thanks to Othello Hunter’s go ahead alley-oop dunk with 13 seconds to go in regulation time to move their Euroleague record to 6-9. The Yellow & Blue came out aggressive from the tip-off and played Barcelona possession by possession as Croatian Dragan Bender starred for Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad. Saras Jasikevicius’s team had a chance to win the game on Corry Higgins’s last second shot but the Barcelona scoring leader’s attempt came up short as Maccabi snatched the victory.

Dragan Bender led Maccabi with 15 points, Tyler Dorsey added 14 points while Elijah Bryant and Othello Hunter each chalked up 10 points in the win. Cory Higgins put in 16 points, Nikola Mirotic recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds as Kyle Kuric chipped in with 12 points in the loss.

Dragan Bender – Photo Credit: Barcelona

3-Pointers

Coming out like a house on fire

1. Maccabi Tel Aviv knew that winning in Barcelona was not only critical in keeping their Euroleague season hopes alive, they also understood that in order to topple the top team this campaign meant they would have to play all out defense. They would need to not only come out like a house on fire playing aggressively, they would have to do that throughout the 40 minutes and end the game strong. Thankfully for coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos his squad did all of the above to notch the hard earned victory and return to Israel on a high after a massively disappointing loss in France. Allowing only 12 points in the first quarter and 13 in the fourth proved to be the key to the victory.

Maccabi HAD to come back from the three game road trip with at minimum a 2-1 record to keep their continental hopes alive with a 6-9 record as they ready for Panathinaikos on Tuesday night. Anything less and the Yellow & Blue could have kissed their season goodbye. However, after this win I’m sure Maccabi will be kicking themselves for falling at ASVEL since a win in that game would have put their season record at 7-8(!). But there’s no time to cry over split milk and they did what they needed to do. “I want to congratulate our players for the great effort that they showed tonight,” said coach Sfairopoulos. “I think that, from the very first moment, we were very focused to the plan that we had. We were fighting also to support the plan, and for this reason, I think that it was very important how we played the game. We put the way of how we want to play the game and in the last, we gave our maximum, all that we had, to win the game.” The star of the show Dragan Bender felt that playing tough from the get go was the way to go for Maccabi and helped them to the win, “We had a tough week after losing Wednesday’s game. We came out motivated to win this one tonight. From the first moment, we were aggressive, and we deserve the win.” 

Elijah Bryant – Photo Credit: Barcelona

Finally a bit of Lady Luck

2. Elijah Bryant has continuously preached that Maccabi would be fine, that the team had been playing right, that there was a lot of one play here and one play there that ended up costing the team in crunch time. Finally a little bit of Lady Luck fell the Yellow & Blue’s way as Bryatnt has always showed a levelheadedness from the start of the season and his never give up sentiments have echoed throughout the lockerroom. “I think that Coach [Sfairopoulos] instills confidence in us and tells us we are Maccabi, we go to fight until the end no matter what the score is, and I think tonight we got one because of that. I think we are focused on the next-play mentality, so we will enjoy this one tonight and then tomorrow focus on the next game.” Without the belief that the club COULD win these close games they wouldn’t have been able to take the victory against Barcelona. Even coach Sfairopoulos said so after the ASVEL game. He took the positive that his team when down showed fight and didn’t fold up shop and lose by 20 points which many team possibly would have done. 

Dragan Bender – Photo Credit: Barcelona

Small Details

3. The small details have killed Maccabi all season long as they have lost so many close games. It could have been one thing or another, but the Yellow & Blue always seemed to be the ones who came up with the short end of the stick game in and game out. Look at what their record could have been should they have won some of those close contests that always seemed to go on favor of the other team. Scottie Wilbekin spoke about those small details that we’ve heard about all season long that somehow always went in favor of the opposing team, “In a one-point game, small details, a rebound here, a free throw there, that is what judges the game.” Bender also felt that finally Maccabi was on the right end of one of those tough games, “We deserved this win after a couple of losses like this one earlier this season, so it’s definitely great to win one like this.” Maybe, just maybe this victory will change the season around and if any team in the Euroleague deserves it, Maccabi does. 

Scottie Wilbekin- Photo Credit: Barcelona

Overtime

Speaking of the small details that make a BIG difference, Maccabi was able to hold Barcelona’s Nick Calathes to only 4 assists while his entire team had 11 compared to Maccabi’s 19. Also the offensive boards were key in the win with the Yellow & Blue grabbing 14 to Barca’s 10 while having an overall advantage 35-32 in the game. Add to that the turnovers, with Maccabi committing 11 to the hosts 14 and you have the recipe for success as the efficiency rating went in coach Sfairopoulos’s favor by a mega amount 87-59. Bottom line is that this was a game that Maccabi rightfully deserved to win. 

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