There were no wild celebrations in the Maccabi Tel Aviv dressing room after Monday’s Game 3 victory over Olimpia Milano at Nokia Arena.
It may have been a crucial triumph, but Maccabi players understand it will be of little value should the yellow-and-blue fail to defeat Milano at Nokia once more on Wednesday night and clinch a 3-1 victory in the best-offive quarterfinal series on the way to a first appearance in the Euroleague Final Four since 2011.
Milano will be aiming to send the series back to Italy for a decisive Game 5 on Friday, but Maccabi has no intention of returning to Milan before mid-May when Olimpia’s Mediolanum Forum hosts the Final Four.
After requiring a miraculous comeback in the final two minutes of regulation on the way to an overtime win in Game 1 in Italy and being outplayed for 40 minutes in Game 2, Maccabi finally showed its true colors on Monday.
Gritty defensive play combined with proficient shooting from the field was at the foundation of most of the yellowand- blue’s victories during the season and it led the team to a triumph once more in Game 4.
Maccabi held Milano to 63 points after allowing an average 95 points in the first two games of the series, limiting the Italians to 4-of-25 (16%) from three-point range.
Similarly to Game 1, Maccabi received key contributions from back-court duo Tyrese Rice and Ricky Hickman, who combined for 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds while committing just three turnovers, with center Alex Tyus yet again stepping up in the paint.
Tyus was set to be sent out on loan by Maccabi as recently as January, but following Shawn James’s season-ending back surgery and Sofoklis Schortsanitis’s niggling injuries, the 26-year-old American became the team’s most important player under the baskets.
Tyus, who converted to Judaism during his time at the University of Florida, scored a combined 30 points in the team’s 10 Euroleague regular season games, but averaged 13.0 points (shooting 80.6 percent from the field) and 8.3 rebounds in the final four Top 16 contests.
He has continued his impressive play against Milano, averaging 12.7 points (on 84.2 percent shooting), 4.3 rebounds and two blocks in the series.
“I think the fact we fought so hard is what won us Game 3,” said Tyus. “Our defense did the job for us and I know what we need to do in order to claim the final victory we require. We are all completely focused on Game 4.”