Maccabi Tel Aviv has plenty of work to do after falling to Khimki on the road in Moscow. At times Ioannis Sfairpoulos’s team looked totally out of sync on the court and it seemed that many players had the jitters in the first Euroleague game of the season.
For almost the first three quarters of action, the Yellow & Blue just couldn’t find a captain to steer the ship into, finally John Dibartolomeo was inserted late in the game; and that’s when Maccabi finally began to look like a team. John D ran the offense to perfection showing exactly why he’s beginning his third season playing Euroleague ball for Tel Aviv.
When I asked Coach Sfairpoulos why he didn’t bring the captain on earlier he said that when Alexey Sheved is playing the point and there are much bigger players on the court for Khimki he felt Dibartolomeo wouldn’t be able to match up height wise. However, Tyler Dorsey had played 10+ minutes up until that time and Scottie Wilbekin had been ineffective while shooting poorly from beyond the arc.
Sfairpoulos went with Elijah Bryant to start the game which was quite surprising as he had never played a continental contest up until that point. The former Eilat man played decently over his debut but nonetheless he had never played a Euroleague game and that showed immediately when he picked up his first foul just 4 seconds into the clash. Dorsey also made his maiden appearance in Europe as did Quincy Acy, with the latter also picking up a quick foul but sooner thereafter finding his footing outside of North America.
I would have gone with a much more veteran presence especially in the first game of the season in order to get off on the right foot against a super dangerous team with the likes of Alexey Shved, Anthony Gill, Janis Timna, Jeremy Evans and others who have been tried and tested in battle. There’s no substitute for experience.
Jake Cohen who has played at Maccabi for many years also could have gotten a go if Sfairpoulos wanted to play a bigger lineup as well, however, the naturalized Israeli matched his minutes in last season’s Euroleague opener against Panathinaikos with zero.
All in all this game was an opportunity lost by Maccabi and now have to get ready for another road tilt at dreaded Real Madrid. The Yellow & Blue will finally open up their home slate in two weeks on Sukkot when they welcome a weak Red Star squad but by then Maccabi may already be 0-2 and desperate for a win.
The bottom line is that as the coach said, everyone needs to play better and that’s what he will demand, learn from the loss and move on. Tarik Black and Othello Hunter we’re both upbeat after the defeat as they felt that the team has something to build on. But Maccabi will have to be very careful not to get into the hole they found themselves in early on last year and spent all season trying to dig out of. If that’s going to be the case, it will be a very long campaign.