Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Zalgiris in Lithuania on Gameday 17 of the Euroleague. The Yellow & Blue come into the contest with a 11-5 record good for 4th place while the hosts are 4-12 and are in the 17th spot in the standings. Last week, Sarunas Jasikevicius’s squad broke a 9 game losing streak when they defeated Bayern Munich handily 98-73 while Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team fell to Anadolu EFES 99-79 after a 5 wins in a row. Zalgiro Arena will be sold out for this evening’s clash as Maccabi will look to get back onto the winning track while Zalgiris will try and win at home for the first time since they defeated ASVEL back on October 25th.
Maccabi’s new signings Aaron Jackson and Jalen Reynolds will both be available for Coach Sfairopoulos who will be without a quartet of injured players in Nate Wolters, John Dibartolomeo, Omri Casspi and Tarik Black who is back recovering in Los Angeles.
“First of all, I’m happy that Jackson and Reynolds are here with us, they practiced a couple of times with the team, and they look in good condition,” said Sfairopoulos about the new recruits. “However, they are still learning the system and there is no magic wand that will make them memorize everything in two days. They are ready to play, but to be a good unit, we need a few days, maybe weeks.”
Guard Tyler Dorsey also spoke about Maccabi’s new players, “The addition of Jackson helps us a lot, Scottie and I don’t have to bring the ball down the court every time, and it helps us with our energy. Throughout the game, he can take those ball-handling duties as we can play off and on the ball. It is going to be an adjustment, but we will try to help him do that and help both of them through it. They look pretty good, in shape, tomorrow will be their first game, and hopefully, we will get there and fight to get a good win.”
“Jackson and Reynolds are two great players that will help us on both ends of the floor,” explained Elijah Bryant. “We are excited to have two new guys that will join the family.”
Maccabi has had issues winning on away from Yad Eliyahu and they will look to try and change that tide against Zalgiris said Sfairopoulos, “When you play away games in the EuroLeague, it isn’t easy to win. We need to be more concentrated, follow the plan, and fight more for every ball. Zalgiris are on their way up, they won the last game, and so far from twelve loses this season, ten of them were under nine points, so we know it won’t be easy.”
“We need to learn how to win more on the road,” Dorsey commented. “We won 6 of our last 7, and adding people on the roster will help us fatigue wise. Zalgiris is a hard-fighting team, you watch them on film, and you see they will fight until the end, they won’t give up. Especially at home they probably play way better so with their crowd and the way they fight, they are a dangerous team.”
Former Yellow & Blue star Sarunas Jasikevicius who is the man in charge at Zalgiris looked at the challenge ahead, “It seems that Maccabi has a very good chemistry. They have a character as a team, because they won many ‘nobody’s’ games. We lost many games like that, and they won many games like that. They are running impressively in the transition. They have stability with Ioannis Sfairopoulos and they started the season really well.”
Lukas Lekavicius is excited to start the year at home at a sold out arena, “It is great to start a new year with a home game. Especially as this game was sold-out already a month ago. We want to thank our fans for that. Maccabi is a very good team. They have a lot of weapons in offense and are athletic in defense. On my position they have really good players, so we will have our hands full on Thursday.”