Maccabi Tel Aviv fell 91-79 to Real Madrid in Spain dropping their Euroleague record to 5-11. After going into halftime all knotted up at 44-44, the host’s took control of the contest and cruised to the 12-point victory. Michael Roll led all scorers with 23 points going 6/7 from beyond the arc, Alex Tyus had a terrific outing with 17 points and 8 rebounds while Angelo Caloiaro chimed in with 13 points. Gustavo Ayon topped the Madrid scorers which featured 6 players in double figures with 18 points and 9 boards, veteran Rudy Fernandez chipped in with 13 points, while Trey Thompkins clocked in with 12 points of his own.
Maccabi Tel Aviv came out strong over the first half of action as Caloiaro scored 9 points in the first quarter but Ayon and Anthony Randolph answered back for Madrid to take a 21-19 lead after ten minutes. Roll and Tyus began to heat up in the second frame to keep the Yellow & Blue in the game as the side’s headed to halftime tied up at 44.
However, a 13-4 run led by Sergio Llull who had gone scoreless in the first half and Facundo Campazzo gave Madrid breathing room as they extended their lead to 18 points midway through the 4th quarter to wrap up the home victory.
1) Huge credit to Michael Roll, Alex Tyus and Angelo Caloiaro for their performances. All three were key in keeping the Yellow & Blue in the game over the first twenty minutes but as Tyus says that’s just not enough, “We just had a lack of concentration in the second half. We gave up some easy baskets and then they kind of picked up their offense a bit. I thought that overall we played a tough game, but next time we just need to play a 40-minute game. So we’re just trying to lock down, play a 40-minute game and just try to get better.” Tyus has begun to once again come into his own and is in a groove. Should Maccabi still have dreams of the playoffs he’ll need to continue his inspired play.
2) Whose names don’t you see among the key Maccabi players? Scottie Wilbekin, Tarik Black and Jeremy Pargo. Wilbekin had a brutal night scoring 2 points in 18 minutes, Black came up with a hamstring injury an hour before tip off and Pargo is still getting back into playing shape after dealing with an injury. These three players were supposed to be keys in Maccabi’s campaign this season and all of them unfortunately haven’t. Black was out last week with a fever and Wilbekin has had a hand issue this season while his results just haven’t translated to the success he had last season in Turkey. Watching Pargo hobble out of the OAKA Arena on Euroleague Gameday 1 has kind of defined Maccabi’s season to date, limp.
3) Michael Roll described the Maccabi season extremely well in his post game comments, “We came out and we fought definitely great in the first half. We were really spirited out there, but in the end we ended up giving too many points. We wanted to try and keep them around 75 to 80. When they are scoring 90, they are a really tough team to beat, especially at home. We’re definitely coming together as a unit we went toe to toe with a very, very good team. Just couple of small plays and we were there for the win.” Playing a good first half but not being able to keep a team like Madrid around 75-80 points. Last week Real fell to Fenerbahce and scored only 63(!) points which something that happens once a decade. The one worrying thing from Roll’s quotes is coming together as a unit. Well, it’s Gameday 16 of 30 and the team’s been in training camp since August and it’s now January. One would hope that they should have been together as a team for ages now, even with the coaching change. It’s always “just a couple of small plays and we were there for the win.” I understand that the team needs to keep a positive spin on this disastrous season to date, but how much can you sell to the fans? Everyone wants to keep the hope right until the end and it’s positive that Roll is speaking like this, but if they want a bridge, I have one for sale as well.
Let’s be honest, if you had taken the schedule and marked down W or L next to each game the contest in Madrid was an L and the same is true for next Friday’s game at CSKA, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Maccabi lost. Do the players try every game? Yes. Do the players have everything they have on the court? Yes. There’s no questioning their effort. As professionals every single player will give their best, but it’s clear that their best just sent good enough against teams like Madrid. Can any one team beat another on any given night? Yes. But Maccabi’s not been able to pick up a win like that all season long. How can they win those types of games? Through defense, that’s the only way and Coach Ioannis Sfairolopoulos makes a point of that at his post game press conference, “I think we started the game concentrated, although we did not do as well defensively as we can. I think in the second half, we were not focused, especially at the beginning. In those first three-and-a-half minutes, we allowed a lot of points from our opponents, and this double-digit lead that they got, they kept. In the last period, we tried to come back. We cut the difference, I think, to six or seven points. If, in that moment, we could have been a little more aggressive defensively and offensively, we could have done something better. But it’s not easy in an away game when you allow your opponent to score 91 points. We will continue, and of course, we need to improve our defense.” Defense, defense, defense, defense. That’s the only way.