Maccabi sinks Zalgiris for third straight win
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv registered its third consecutive win, using its best defensive effort of the season en route to a 76-62 victory over visiting Zalgiris Kaunas at Menora Mivtachim Arena on Tuesday night. It was Maccabi's third consecutive win that improved it to 4-2, while Zalgiris remains the only winless team after Round 6. Maccabi took control with Derrick Williams and Ante Zizic dominating inside in the first half and held a 39-30 halftime lead before extending the margin to double digits in the third. Maccabi led by as many as 19 points early in the fourth quarter before Zalgiris trimmed the deficit in the final 4 minutes of the game. Williams collected 17 points plus 7 rebounds and Zizic had 14 points and 9 rebounds in a victory. James Nunnally scored 15, and Keenan Evans 13 points for Maccabi. Arturas Milaknis netted 17 points on 5-for-9 three-point shooting for Zalgiris, and Josh Nebo had 10 points and 9 rebounds in a losing effort.
In the opening 3 minutes of the game, Zizic and Williams scored twice each before Evans launched a pair of fast breaks as the hosts opened a 14-2 lead. Janis Strelnieks snapped a 14-0 run with a triple before Milaknis scored 11 consecutive points, including back-to-back-to-back threes that put Zalgiris in front 14-16. Lukas Lekavicius and Paulius Jankunas helped the visitors to a 16-20 lead after 10 minutes.
Nunnally opened the scoring in the second with a transition triple, before Williams had a monster dunk and a three-point play to restore Maccabi's lead, 24-22. After a jumper from Strelnieks, Nunnally, Williams and Zizic put together an 8-0 run to open a 32-24 margin. Emmanuel Mudiay ended that run, and Nebo kept the visitors in range with a floater, but Kameron Taylor hit a triple to help Maccabi to a 39-30 halftime lead.
Evans had a pair of runners to increase the margin to 13 points, but Niels Giffey scored 5 points, including a triple, to keep the visitors in range. But Williams hit from the outside and Nunnally twice inside to make it 53-39. A pair of baskets from Lekavicius got the margin back to single digits, but Jalen Reynolds finished the quarter with a three-point play to make it 58-46 going into the final 10 minutes.
Reynolds opened the fourth quarter with a close-range basket before a triple from Williams sparked a 7-0 run that blew the game wide open, 67-48. Milaknis hit from long range twice, with Mantas Kalnietis scoring twice in between, giving the visitors a glimmer of hope. Zalgiris held Maccabi without a field goal for more than 5 minutes as the visitors cut it to 72-62, but Nunnally iced the game with 90 seconds to go.
Williams, Zizic were Maccabi's key performers
Derrick Williams and Ante Zizic set the tone for Maccabi in this one, especially giving the hosts confidence on offense from the get-go. The two dominated inside against Marek Blazevic and kept Josh Nebo busy at all times. They sparked Maccabi in the first and then again in the second quarter as the hosts built a lead they never relinquished.
Williams played 33 minutes and scored 17 points, including sinking 2 triples on as many attempts. He also pulled down 7 rebounds. Zizic played with great confidence around the rims from the opening tip-off, finishing the game with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting and also pulling down 9 rebounds. For both players, these were their best performances of the young season and they sparked Maccabi to its third consecutive win.
Turning defense into offense fueled Maccabi
Maccabi allowed 62 points, which is the fewest this season, and tied for fewest since Round 8 of last season when the team allowed 57 points at home versus... Zalgiris. In this one, Maccabi just had a slight rebounding edge, 39-35, had 4 fewer turnovers and 2 more steals. But Maccabi made great use of those slim advantages.
The two other key numbers in this victory for Maccabi were 11 fastbreak points and 22 points off turnovers. What's more, Maccabi allowed 0 fastbreak points and finished with a 23-9 advantage in points off turnovers. Turning defense into offense paved the way for Maccabi to win.
Both teams suffered from three-point woes
Both teams struggled shooting the ball from long range. Maccabi made just 4 of 19 three-point shots (21.1%) and is shooting just 31.1% for the season. Interestingly, Maccabi fired the majority of those shots in the second and fourth quarters. The hosts were 0 for 2 in the first quarter, and 1 for 1 from three-point range in the third quarter. But despite its own misfirings, Maccabi had the upper hand in this game because it found a way to control Zalgiris's outside shooting. The visitors opened the game with 4 three-point daggers in the first quarter, 1 from Janis Strelnieks and 3 from Arturas Milaknis, but they needed 10 attempts for them. For the rest of the game, Zalgiris shot 3 for 16 from outside the arc. Of those 7 triples Zalgiris made, 5 belonged to Milaknis while five different players attempted but did not make a three-point shot in this game.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021