1) Yovel Zoosman played terrific basketball over the course of the 22+ minutes he played and was named the Most Valuable Player. But where he really excelled was when Maccabi needed him most, in the final frame as he dropped 9 of his 13 points, went 4/4 from the free throw line and also picked up a pair of steals. Was Zoosman clutch? He certainly was as Bayern Munich has closed the gap to just 6 points, 53-47 after thirty minutes. The Israeli swingman has been playing superb ball over the past couple of weeks and that hasn’t been lost in his teammates as well. “Yovel was great on both sides,” began Scottie Wilbekin. “On offense he was poised on the ball, made the right plays and reads, and on defense he was a problem for them as he was guarding their point guard and also guarding the 3. He had some good steals and deflections as well.”
Omri Casspi who didn’t dress due to feeling a something in his knee during the morning shoot around also complimented the young Sabra, “He was aggressive on both ends of the floor. He rebounded the ball very well and once you rebound you play better throughout the game. He is doing the little things.” Tarik Black also spoke about what Zoosman was able to do for the team, “He guards, he picks up the ball 94 feet right every game, he gets steals every game, he knocks down shots every game, he helps us run the break and even plays some point guard and brings the ball down every game, he gets dunks every game, so this is what we expect of him turning it up for the next level, Zoos has reached the caliber of player that he is. It’s just him. Now you see who is truly is.” Finally Zoosman himself talked about what it meant to him to have the game he did, “I’m happy we won. It was a dream for me as a kid to be a EuroLeague MVP, but now I have more dreams to reach.”
2) The Maccabi defense was stifling, absolutely stifling and choked the life out of Bayern Munich throughout the game. When the Yellow & Blue want to kill a game they do it via their tight, tough D as coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos has brought the team back to the days that he remembers as an opposing coach with PAOK, “When I was with PAOK in 2000 we started the game and we were -10 in the first period. Fast breaks, steals and the fans were on top of you. That is what I want from our team this year. Our defense gives big games and titles. Playing good defense doesn’t mean we won’t play good offense. Everyone understands the philosophy on defense and we play as a team in the full meaning of the word. We share the ball, we give the extra pass and there is no ego. We are a team.”
Bayern coach Dejan Radonjic found the defense to be overwhelming for his team over the course of 40 minutes, “They played a good game. In the second quarter, especially in the beginning, our turnovers gave them an advantage. They played excellent defense. We came back in the third quarter, but it was not good enough. With 19 turnovers, you cannot expect a good game against Maccabi.” Sfairopoulos also congratulated his players for keeping Bayern under 10 points in not one quarter, but two! “I think that from the beginning we played good defense, but as you can see obviously from the statistics, what happened tonight having the opponent in two periods score less than 10 points, this is something that you don’t see often. It can happen in one period, but in two periods? It’s not very easy. That’s why I congratulate our players. I think this is our DNA, this is our character, our mentality that we play very good defense and from our good defense we use the open court, we played smart on set offenses and we found solutions.”
3) The battle of the big men took center stage this matchup as former NBA Star Greg Monroe came to Yad Eliyahu with Bayern Munich and that set up a date with both Tarik Black and Othello Hunter. The battle in the paint was fun to watch, but Maccabi’s big men were able to neutralize Monroe time and time again holding the one time Detroit Piston to just 8 points and effectively closing off his post up game. “Yeah he is a great big man,” said Black in the lockerroom just before he went out for treatment. He’s done his thing and has had a great career in the NBA. He was one of the top players in high school and in Georgetown. So much respect to him. I’m happy for him.” Coach Sfairopoulos also talked about the keys of taking Monroe out of the game, “I think that both Othello and Tarik had to play against Monroe and he is one of the best scoring big guys. He only scored 8 points. They both attacked the baskets and disorganized their post ups as our front court defense was very good.”
If there was any thought that Maccabi was going to escape the injury bug then think again. The Yellow & Blue has been hit and hit hard with that miserable bug. Black just came back from injury, while Casspi was still out but the first quarter saw Sfairopoulos loss his two point guards within minutes of each other. Nate Wolters went down first with a hamstring injury while John Dibartolomeo left with a pectoral muscle injury. The loss of the pair hurt Maccabi especially in the third quarter when Scottie Wilbekin ran the show and couldn’t free himself up to take the shots that he loves to take. “I hope they are ok and I don’t know how serious it is. We need them.” said Wilbekin as he sat by his locker.
Coach Sfairopoulos also commented on losing his point guards, “Both are in for an MRI and tomorrow we will know the results. But we believe that they are serious. It was hard to adjust during the game without the two. We always think in advance as to who may take over and Tyler and Zoos did a great job, but it was not easy.” Casspi spoke about his current status after being out for a few weeks, “I feel alright. We want to proceed with caution and not to take a step back. Hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow, better Saturday and better for Sunday.” Black also chimed in about how he was feeling after playing earlier in the week at Nahariya, “I feel good. A little sore, a little tired. I hadn’t stepped on the court in a long time.” Sfairopoulos spoke about his decision to play Black and not Casspi, “It was not difficult it was about feeling pain or not. Tarick felt ok and we spoke to Omri and he felt something in his knee so we didn’t want to overload his knee and prevent a real injury. This will give him time to be ready for the nex game. Tarik was very aggressive and committed I think he will overcome his injury.”