Nemanja Nedovic the rare exception
1) It’s not every game recap where I begin with one of the players on the losing team especially when it’s one from the opposition, but Nemanja Nedovic is a rare exception. The Serbian guard put on one of the great shows in Euroleague history with 39 points with 7 triples and 6 assists for an efficiency rating of 45. The one time Golden State Warrior was hot, red hot and just couldn’t miss all game long. In the 4th quarter alone Nedovic dropped 19 points while going head to head with Scottie Wilbekin as each scored 12 points in a row for their teams in a massive battle that went back and forth all frame long. The 39 points was the single game record against Maccabi Tel Aviv but it wasn’t the record for a PAO player as Tyrese Rice scored 41 points a little over a year ago against the club’s arch rival Olympiacos. “It’s a bittersweet taste,” began Nedovic after the game. “We lost, but I had my career record here. I always play well here. We did not have training before, I did not know the court. But I had the options I wanted, I made some difficult shots. It was a result of self-confidence and hard work, but the feeling was bittersweet. The basket gets bigger as you score. The game becomes slower. I hope something similar will be repeated in the future.” Coach Sfairopoulos also spoke about Nedovic and the key that led Maccabi to the win, “We faced a player who was very hot, it was very difficult to stop him. We changed matchups, we changed defenses on him. Whatever we tried to do, he was very hot and you can see that although we stopped all the other players they had, he created a lot of problems for us.” Dragan Bender also complimented Nedovic on his superb performance, “I think he (Nedovic) always has the green light to do what he wants. He shoots threes, goes coast to coast he splits the defense. But if we guard well and as long as we continue on the other guys we can kind of force them to take shots. It’s hard to watch a guy score 39 points on you but if you get the win then it’s ok.” Finally, Othello Hunter had this to say, “What Nedo [Nedovic] did was amazing. I haven’t seen that, but I’m glad our guys played tough defense and made it tough on him. He had a great night tonight.”
Scottie Wilbekin was phenomenal
2) Let’s get back to Maccabi’s win shall we? Scottie Wilbekin with 22 points on the game had his fingerprints all over the victory with a phenomenal final frame in which he matched Nedovic shot for shot to ensure that Panathinaikos wouldn’t take the lead. “He doesn’t need to score all those points for me to want to win the game” explained Wilbekin. “When I switched onto him and he hit a three and he switched onto me, I took the opportunity to shoot it. He had 39 and I had 22. He had a great game and we won so that’s the only thing that matters to me.” Wilbekin has scored over 20 points seven times this season but Maccabi’s record in those games is 2-5, so for the star guard to notch 22 points against Panathinaikos and win is a positive sign for all ides involved. The two wins referenced occurred in the past 5 games in which the Yellow & Blue are 4-1 and that signifies that there are some positive changes afoot within the team itself. How can Wilbekin and the rest of the squad make sure that the winning continues? “Just staying focused and not be happy with winning a couple of games. We are happy with the progress but we can still get better and we have find those little areas to improve.”
Bender a changed player
3) Dragan Bender has looked like a changed player over the past couple of weeks. There is an air of confidence around him as he really begins to make an impact on both ends of the court. In fact against Panathinaikos, the fourth overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft recorded terrific numbers with 9 points, 6 rebonds and 3 blocks as he proved to be a very big piece of the win in close to 30 minutes on the floor. “I was just trying to play the right way and be aggressive. Start from defense and go from there. Scottie scored a lot of points and as long as we can stay on the same page as a team we can do some great things this season.” Bender also referenced the fact that he began training with the team late and some players are just returning from injuries which is an obvious help, “I think we have a different energy and you can see Omri Casspi and Yovel Zoosman contributing. That gave us a little boost and if we keep doing this we will be alright.”
Coach Sfairopoulos had mixed feelings about Casspi and Zoosman while also explaining why captain John Dibartolomeo didn’t play. As for the ten year NBA veteran, the bench boss was vower pleased with his contribution in 11 minutes with 4 points and 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals making his mark on the game and being the X-Factor for Maccabi. “This was Omri’s best game and he’s adjusting to his rhythm. This was his best one until the next one.” As for Zoosman, the coach wasn’t pleased with his defense on Nedovic, “The players aren’t in good game rhythm and when Nedovic scored on Zoosman and he couldn’t stop him I had to take him out. If he doesn’t do what I want, he doesn’t play.” As for JohnD, he didn’t step on the court because Coach Sfairopoulos saw that Panathinaikos wasn’t going to play small ball and needed to play taller and bigger players in order to counter the big Greek lineup.