Maccabi swept out of Euroleague playoffs

Real Madrid closes out quarterfinal series in Tel Aviv as Llull leads balanced team effort to advance.

SERGIO LLULL (left) found his rhythm over the last two games of Real Madrid’s 3-0 sweep of John DiBartolomeo and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague quarterfinals.  (photo credit: Dov Halickman)
SERGIO LLULL (left) found his rhythm over the last two games of Real Madrid’s 3-0 sweep of John DiBartolomeo and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague quarterfinals.
(photo credit: Dov Halickman)

Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Real Madrid 87-76 in a spirited affair on Tuesday night as the Spaniards swept the quarterfinal series 3-0, ending the yellow-and-blue’s Euroleague campaign.

Pablo Laso’s squad dominated every facet of the matchup at Yad Eliyahu and won every quarter to take the 11-point win.

Scottie Wilbekin came out strong for Avi Even’s team, but Sergio Llull came in and began hitting from deep just as he did in Game 2 in Madrid, while he also sliced his way to the basket by driving inside through the porous Maccabi defense.

Real big man Walter Tavares caused all kinds of problems for Ante Zizic in the paint as the 2.20-meter (7-foot-2) giant forced Maccabi to change shot after shot while also swatting away his fair share as well.

The yellow-and-blue also had no answer for Vincent Poirier and Guerschon Yabusele, who scored at will and helped Madrid control the boards all game long as Real moved the ball like a symphony orchestra, dishing out 25 assists to take the victory.

SCOTTIE WILBEKIN Yiftah Ziv celebrates after the yellow-and-blue clinched its spot in the Euroleague playoffs last week. (credit: Dov Halickman)SCOTTIE WILBEKIN Yiftah Ziv celebrates after the yellow-and-blue clinched its spot in the Euroleague playoffs last week. (credit: Dov Halickman)

Wilbekin paced Maccabi with 22 points, James Nunnally added 17 points and Zizic scored 10 points in the loss. Llull led Real with 18 points, Yabusele scored 16 points and Poirier chipped in with 14 points in the win.

“I feel sad and proud,” Avi Even said following the game. “I really wanted to take this game. I feel that we left everything on the floor, but unfortunately we played against a very good team and we didn’t really manage to win. We look forward to the local Israeli league and taking the title.”

Naturally, Real’s coach had a different viewpoint.

“I think it was a very solid performance on our part,” Laso commented. “We read the game very well, in offense we moved the ball well, we looked for mismatches. We had some stupid turnovers that hurt us because we knew that are they very good when they are able to rebound and run, so we tried to shut them down in those situations, but still it is not easy. But I think it was a great offensive performance.”

Maccabi captain John DiBartolomeo shared his sentiments following the defeat,.

There are a lot of mixed emotions, which makes sense as we could have done better in this series. It’s been a tough ride in the Euroleague this season and all things considered we had a good run. Now we will continue on with a goal of the Israeli league championship.”

Llull, the game’s MVP, played superbly in Game 2 and Game 3 and also reflected on the victory.

“We are really happy to reach one of our goals at the beginning of the season. The atmosphere was just crazy, it’s amazing to play basketball in this arena. I think we did a great job on offense and on defense. Everybody was really concentrated so we are really happy.”

Nigel Williams-Goss got Real Madrid on the board with a reverse layup while Zizic put points in for Maccabi Tel Aviv to open up the first quarter.

Walter Tavares, Adam Hanga, Fabien Causeur added points while Scottie Wilbekin and Zizic did the same, but the visitors grabbed a 12-6 lead midway through the period.

Wilbekin drilled home a pair of triples, Llull scored on a layup and Yabusele hit a three-pointer, Tavares put points in the paint as did Yabusele, but Jalen Reynolds dunked to keep the yellow-and-blue close (25-22) after 10 minutes of play.

Alberto Abalde hit a three-pointer after a gorgeous passing play to begin the second quarter, while Angelo Caloiaro answered for Maccabi. Llull notched a three-point play and Poirier scored as well while Rudy Fernandez hit from long distance to keep Laso’s team in front 36-30 with 7:15 left in the frame.

Wilbekin scored high off the glass, Llull came back with a three-pointer and Yabusele dunked, while Hanga raced right by Nunnally for an easy layup.

Williams found points, but Yabusele dialed up from long distance. Zizic answered inside, but Even’s team went into halftime behind 51-41.

Nunnally opened the third quarter with a three-point play, Caloiaro scored under the basket, Williams-Goss went from deep off the glass as did Nunnally. Wilbekin hit a floater, Hanga and Yabusele answered as Maccabi pulled to within 58-51 midway through the period.

Poirier scored in the paint, Zizic and Williams did as well, Reynolds hit a pair of baskets, Llull took the ball to the hoop twice and then hit a bank-shot triple to end the frame with Real ahead 73-61.

Wilbekin and Hanga traded buckets to start the fourth frame, Derrick Williams went from deep, Yabusele scored in the paint and Abalde added another bucket to give Madrid an 81-66 lead with under six minutes left in regulation.

Wilbekin scored off the glass, Poirier scored in the paint and then dunked, Sorkin returned the favor at the other end. Nunnally went from deep, but it was too little, too late as Real wrapped up the win and a 3-0 sweep.