Maccabi Tel Aviv dealt tough home blow

Olympiacos rallies for Euroleague overtime conquest of yellow-and-blue ahead of Baskonia visit.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Scottie Wilbekin. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Scottie Wilbekin.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv was stunned 89-87 by visiting Olympiacos in overtime on Tuesday night in what was a tight Euroleague battle over the full 45 minutes of action.
With the win, the Greeks swept the two games against the yellow-and-blue, leaving Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad once again licking its wounds in a close defeat. Georgios Bartzokas’s team was able to hit crucial free-throws down the stretch as Kostas Sloukas and Giannoulis Larentzakis took advantage of the charity stripe while Maccabi star guard Scottie Wilbekin missed his foul-shots in crunch time to take the victory.
Wilbekin may have led Sfairopoulos’s side with 25 points, however he turned the ball over eight times to set a Maccabi futility record. Elijah Bryant added 15 points, Ante Zizic chipped in 12 points and Othello Hunter, who returned from injury, recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sloukas, the Olympiacos high scorer, checked in with 21 points, Larentzakis scored 13 points and Georgios Printezis put in 12 points in the win.
“I think it was a close game, like everybody saw,” said a disappointed Sfairopoulos. “We fought for the win until the end and the decision of the result was judged by a few details, few parts of the game that could have been different. I think one missed rebound, one early foul under the basket that sent them to the free-throw line, some open shots that we missed with which we could have finished the game in regulation.”
The winning coach, Bartzokas, was all smiles following his team’s victory.
”It was a very important win and I would like to give credit to our players for the team for their effort. First of all, we were much, much better in all decisive situations, in situations that Maccabi wanted to play, especially with Wilbekin and the very aggressive guards that they have.”
“I think it was a hard-fought game,” said Maccabi center Hunter. Guys didn’t give up and we played hard. We could have won it. We kept fighting and had a chance to win. We just didn’t come through. At the end of the day, you are going to win some and lose some. Right now, we are losing the ones we should win and it is okay because we keep fighting and are not giving up.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv will now turn its attention to Baskonia for a Thursday night date at Yad Eliyahu. The Spaniards enter the clash after falling to Fenerbahce 96-76 and have a 9-10 record, while the yellow-and-blue sits at 8-11.
Dusko Ivanovic’s squad features one of the surprise players of the season in big man Alec Peters along with center Achille Polonara, guard Luca Vildoza and forward Zoran Dragic, the brother of NBA star Goran Dragic who plies his trade with the Miami Heat.
Sfairopoulos looked ahead to the decisive home clash.
“It is a bad result, we are not happy but we need to continue. We have one more game against Baskonia and now our whole thinking is, of course, to focus on the next one, because I don't want the effect of the loss to affect how we will play the next game.”
Bryant opened the scoring for Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Zizic added a three-point play and Wilbekin drilled home a triple early in the first quarter as the hosts took an 8-4 lead midway through the frame.
Georgios Printezis put in a trio of baskets, Wilbekin hit a floater in the lane and then fed Angelo Caloiaro off a steal but Vasilis Charalampopoulos scored a pair of buckets to keep Olympiacos close, down 18-13 after 10 minutes.
Bryant scored an uncontested layup and a bucket from deep while Oz Blayzer and Zizic added free-throws as Shaquielle McKissic scored from the charity line for Bartzokas’s squad, but the yellow-and-blue stayed in front 27-22 with 6:32 left in the second quarter.
Chris Jones hitt from beyond the arc and Zizic took care of a Bryant pass for an easy basket, but Octavius Ellis and Sloukas got their first points of the game.
But Wilbekin dialed it up from long distance as did Tyler Dorsey to give Sfairopoulos’s team a 40-33 advantage at halftime.
Ellis with a basket, Livio Jean-Charles with points and Sloukas with a triple helped Olympiacos knot up the score at 40-40, but Zizic and Hunter scored in the paint to give Maccabi a 48-42 lead midway through the third quarter.
Free-throws from McKissic and a three-pointer from Sloukas gave the visitors a short-lived lead as Bryant with a floater, Dorsey with points and Jones with a runner kept Maccabi ahead 55-52 after 30 minutes of play.
Larentzakis, Hassan Martin and Sloukas all scored to send Olympiacos on a 6-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, but Bryant broke the streak with points in the paint, Wilbekin added free-throws and Jones nailed a jumper to keep Maccabi in the lead 61-60 with five minutes left in regulation.
Sloukas fed Jean-Charles for an easy basket, Sasha Vezenkov found his first points of the game from outside, Wilbekin hit a triple and both sides hit their free-throws to send the game into overtime all tied up at 73-73.
Caloiaro began the extra period with an off-balance jumper, Printezis answered immediately from downtown but Jones and Hunter put in points.
Larentzakis drilled in a three-pointer, as did a wide open Vezenkov from the corner, but Hunter answered with free-throws and a dunk to pull Maccabi to within one point (86-85) with 19.9 seconds left on the clock.
Larentzakis scored his free-throws but Wilbekin made only 2-of-3 as the yellow-and-blue fell narrowly and dramatically to Olympiacos for the second time this season.