Less than a week ago, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv was in big trouble.
The Israeli champion sank quickly after a strong start to the season and lost eight consecutive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague matches to make his hopes of qualifying for the playoffs certainly seem unrealistic.
But what a difference some games can make. After comprehensively defeating Olympiacos Piraeus 84-69 on Thursday night, Maccabi once again defended his home court by defeating ALBA Berlin 87-78 in the Menora Mivtachim arena in a make-up match of Round 20 on Tuesday.
Now, with rugby victories assured, Maccabi’s challenge for post-season action is well back on track with the team just one win short of the play-off zone in a very congested midfield of the points ladder.
The common thread between Thursday’s victory over Olympiacos and Tuesday’s victory against ALBA? Protect the basketball.
Maccabi won just 4 rounds in the turnaround victory over Olympiacos, a combined club record and the first time such a low has been achieved since a home win over Unicaja Malaga in 2008.
And on Tuesday against ALBA, Maccabi followed that up by playing a perfect first half in terms of the ball game, without committing a single turnover before the break. ALBA, meanwhile, turned the ball around 7 times before half-time, which played a big part in Maccabi trying 37 shots in the first half against 30 of the visitors and thus gaining a 7-point lead in the home side.
Maccabi continued similarly in the second half and did not commit his first turnover until Jalen Reynolds was called for an offensive offense with 2:28 left in the third quarter and finished with just 5 overs in the entire game. This enabled Maccabi to tackle another 14 field goal attempts (68 to 54) despite losing the setback (30 to 33).
Guards Scottie Wilbekin and Keenan Evans were particularly impressive in their use of the ball against ALBA, combining for 14 assists (6 from Wilbekin, 8 from Evans) with no turnover. They focused their distribution efforts inside, with big men Derrick Williams (16 points), Jalen Reynolds (14 points) and Ante Zizic (14 points) receiving good service to record strong two-point shooting percentages: 5-out-5 for Williams , 5-of-6 for Zizic and 6-of-11 from Reynolds.
The full-back duo also did an excellent job on the other side of the ball and slowed down ALBA’s attack by making 3 steals each, a large part of the 16 turnover points committed by the German team and another key to the match.
With 14 assists and 0 turnovers from the team’s key backfield duo, 16-for-22 two-point shots from the big men and a team total of 10 steals, it’s clear that Maccabi has a very effective all-round game played against ALBA. And due to a similarly controlled display against Olympiacos, the signs are good that Maccabi’s sudden surge in form can now be maintained.