Maccabi snaps eight-game losing skid
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv finally returned to the winning column as it convincingly beat Olympiacos Piraeus 84-69 to snap an eight-game losing streak. It was Maccabi’s first EuroLeague game of 2022 and the first time the team has played since an Israeli League contest on January 3. Ante Zizic led the way with 23 points for Maccabi, which won for the first time since beating AS Monaco 95-84 in Round 10 on November 17, 2021, and improved to 8-11. Keenan Evans scored 14 points, Scottie Wilbekin added 13 and James Nunnally produced 11 points and 4 assists. Neither team could pull away until a 15-4 Maccabi run to lead by 11 points in the third quarter. And Maccabi held Olympiacos to just 1 free throw in the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter. Olympiacos dropped its second straight game to fall to 12-7 - including a 3-7 record on the road. Georgios Printezis was the top scorer for the guests with 13 points while Tyler Dorsey scored 12 points against his former team.
Both teams scored on their first possessions but Maccabi used some early intense defense to keep Olympiacos scoreless for more than 5 minutes and led 8-2 thanks to 5 Zizic points. Kostas Papanikolaou finally snapped the rut and added a three-pointer. He was followed from deep by Sasha Vezenkov to pull Olympiacos within 12-10. Dorsey converted a layup to knot the game at 14-14. Angelo Caloiaro responded with a three-point play for the hosts, who finished the first quarter ahead 19-16.
Shaquielle McKissic opened the second quarter with free throws after an unsportsmanlike foul and Printezis drained a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to put Olympiacos ahead 19-21. Wilbekin answered straight away with a floater only to see McKissic hit a triple and layup for a 23-28 advantage. After a timeout, Maccabi fought back into the game with triples from John DiBartolomeo and Nunnally to reclaim the lead, 31-30. Six lead changes followed with Zizic scoring 7 straight points for Maccabi to make it 40-36. The score was 40-38 at the break.
Thomas Walkup opened the second half with a three-pointer to give Olympiacos back the lead. But Zizic continued his dominant game with 7 points and Evans hit a triple and three-point play in a 15-4 surge to put Maccabi up 55-45. A Nunnally triple pushed the advantage to 60-49. Kostas Sloukas countered with a triple and Moustapha Fall trimmed it to 60-54. But Maccabi led 66-56 after 30 minutes.
After Evans scored to start the final frame, Vezenkov made one of two free throws and the score was 68-57. But the guests could not get anything going offensively. Caloiaro hit three free throws to extend the lead to 75-57. Fall finally scored Olympiacos’s first basket of the quarter with 4:47 minutes left in the game. Wilbekin added a pair of three-pointers and the lead swelled to 81-59. Olympiacos did some cosmetics for the final scoreline with Dorsey converting back-to-back three-point plays in a 0-10 run to make it look more respectable.
Zizic nears career-highs
Ante Zizic was the offensive star of the game for Maccabi. The 25-year-old Croatian big man scored 23 points from making 10 of 12 shots and 3 of 5 free throws. He also grabbed 6 rebounds, dished out 1 assist, swiped 2 steals and blocked one shot. All of that gave him a performance index rating of 33. The PIR evened Zizic’s career-high - set on March 30, 2021, against FC Barcelona. In that game, Zizic also scored 24 points, which is his career-high. And he was just one point off that mark against Olympiacos.
Maccabi marks historic moments
There was a buzz around Menora Mivtachim Arena long before the game started on Thursday. The sold-out crowd was clamoring for a few historic-making moments. The first was the moment the team, famous for its yellow-and-blue uniforms, took the court wearing white threads for the first time in club history. The white look was part of the club’s celebration of 90 years since its formation. During a timeout in the second quarter, fans were able to cheer on two legendary coaches who were posthumously inducted into the Maccabi Hall of Fame. For Yehoshua Rozin, who coached the club for 18 years, the number 54 was raised to the rafters to mark his first season and first championship. For Ralph Klein, who played for Rozin on that 1954 team, the number 77 was chosen
to mark the year he guided Maccabi to its first EuroLeague title.
Telling numbers: Defense and turnovers
The biggest key to the game was Maccabi’s defense, which held Olympiacos to just 69 points. Olympiacos shot just 6 of 22 from three-point range (27.3%). Despite losing the rebounding battle 39-29 and grabbing 8 offensive rebounds to 11 for Olympiacos, Maccabi took the second-chance points category 11-2. Maccabi also converted 15 Olympiacos turnovers into 23 points while Olympiacos had 10 points off Maccabi’s 4 turnovers. The 4 turnovers tied for the club’s fewest in EuroLeague history - accomplished twice (February 6, 2003, against Buducnost Podgorica and January 10, 2008, against Unicaja Malaga).
Thursday, January 20, 2022