It would take a some serious searching to find a game where a team allowed its opponent to score the first 20 points of the fourth quarter, for a 0-22 run in total, and still win by 16 points. As worrisome as it might seem to be on the wrong end of that huge run by FC Barcelona Lassa, the fact that Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv still won big, 99-83, is even more impressive.
Up 78-40 midway through the third quarter, Maccabi took its foot off the gas pedal. It lessened the overall impression that the team had left up to that point, and it allowed Barcelona to lose by the same amount by which it had beaten Maccabi back on November 1, denying Maccabi a head-to-head tie-break advantage going forward.
But no one was complaining in Tel Aviv. On the contrary, the confidence that Maccabi played with for the first 25 minutes on Thursday should very much worry its upcoming opponents.
"It's true that at the end of the game, in the last period, we lost our concentration and gave up points. We didn't execute on offense good, and after that they had some transition points, three-pointers and layups, and they cut down the difference. But this is sometimes normal because you cannot keep the same rhythm for the whole game," head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos said. "And this doesn't cut down on the glory or importance of this victory. This is a great win against a club that had five wins in a row before this and are first in the Spanish League. So this is a great win, a big win, and we are happy."
The key to the win was beating the full-court press that Barcelona used much of the night. Scottie Wilbekin, DeAndre Kane, Michael Roll, John DiBartolomeo and Yovel Zoosman did a masterful job of using few dribbles and swift passes to easily get the ball into their offensive half of the court with numbers advantages on the Barcelona defenders. And once three-point shots started falling for Wilbekin, DiBartolomeo and Kane, the floodgates were open.
Maccabi piled up 57 by halftime, tied for its fourth-highest first half in the EuroLeague this century, and had scored 85 after 30 minutes. Maccabi made 12 of its first 23 triples and shot 18 for 21 on two-pointers through three quarters. It was a total domination.
It was nothing less than a continuation of Maccabi's shock road win over CSKA in Moscow last week, which is quickly proving to have been a building block for the rest of the season.
Maccabi has now won three in a row and is the hottest team among a bunch racing for the final two playoff spots.