2020-21Regular SeasonRound 31
March 25, 2021 CET: 20:00
Local time: 21:00 ZALGIRIO ARENA

Maccabi’s strong finish buries Zalgiris

Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv escaped from Zalgirio Arena with a hard-fought 81-88 victory over Zalgiris Kaunas on Thursday night. The visitors trailed 79-72 with less than 4 minutes remaining, but only allowed a bucket by Rokas Jokubaitis in that span in a 2-16 run that sealed the outcome. Dragan Bender had career-highs in points (16) and PIR (15) to lead the winners, who improved to 12-17. Chris Jones followed him with an all-around performance of 13 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals, good for a career-best in PIR of 21. Scottie Wilbekin and Elijah Bryant netted 12 points each and Ante Zizic posted 10 and 6 rebounds for the Israeli champs. Nigel Hayes scored career-high 24 points on 8-of-11 field goal shooting, also registering his best mark in PIR (30). Marius Grigonis knocked down 14 points and dished 6 assists and Jokubaitis scored 11 in defeat.

Four different Zalgiris players scored on a 9-2 opening run. Maccabi called for a timeout, right before Angelo Caloiaro and Wilbekin accounted for a triple and a three-point play, respectively, to make it 12-8. Hayes showed up then to score 7 points in a row, giving the hosts a double-digit lead, 19-8. The visitors struggled to keep the ball safe in offense, which allowed Hayes to extend the margin to 23-10 after another steal. Omri Casspi took over for the Yellows with 6 points in a row and Jones followed with a jumper to reduce the deficit, even though Jokubaitis drilled a corner three to close the first quarter with Zalgiris ahead, 26-18. Maccabi had a strong start in the second, going on a 2-10 run that got it all square after 12 minutes. Zalgiris tried to stop it with a timeout, but Bender scored a layup to complete the comeback and put the visitors in front, 28-30. The hosts found some relief from behind the arc as Thomas Walkup, Paulius Jankunas and Hayes connected on a three each to recover a 37-33 edge. Hayes and Augustine Rubit kept delivering from the line, but a timely corner triple by John DiBartolomeo helped Maccabi reach halftime trailing 40-38.

Walkup and Grigonis got Zalgiris going with a three-point play and a three-pointer early in the third that returned a comfortable 46-38 advantage to the hosts. Oz Blayzer held the guests with a strong block and a three, as Jones followed with a pair of jumpers to bring Maccabi within 48-45. Both teams traded baskets until Bryant showed up with a three and a couple of free throws to tie it again, 55-55. Dorsey got Maccabi ahead again, 57-58, as the lead switched 6 times for the following 2 minutes until a bucket by Bryant closed the third with the visitors leading 63-64. Lauvergne took over on the offensive glass for Zalgiris, but Bender replied in style with back-to-back triples that kept the Yellows up, 69-70. The hosts reacted with a 7-0 run capped by a difficult bucket by Hayes to make another turnaround, 76-70. Maccabi didn’t panic, though, as Zizic delivered a couple of buckets inside, Wilbekin connected from deep and Jones scored free throws to tie it again, 79-79, entering crunch time. Jokubaitis hit a jumper that brought the lead back to Zalgiris, but he missed the next two as Maccabi found first Bryant from behind the arc, then Zizic inside to get an 81-84 edge. A turnover by Walkup was followed by a layup by Wilbekin with 22 seconds to go that sealed the visitor’s victory.

Pivotal performer

Dragan Bender had to play a different role for his team in this game, as Othello Hunter missed it because of an injury. Bender filled in the center position for several minutes and he didn’t look uncomfortable. He drilled 2 key threes early in the fourth quarter to prevent Zalgiris from escaping and ended up tallying career-high 16 points to lead Maccabi.

Close end, strong finish

Maccabi had played several tight games in the Turkish Euroleague regular season so far but had not very good memories from most of them. The Israeli champs had lost 10 games decided by 5 or fewer points, winning just four. But on this night, Maccabi showed no panic when the game was tied, 79-79, entering crunch time. The visitors allowed only 2 points in the last 4 minutes of the game and signed off a 2-16 run in that span to take the win.

Team balance

The visitors had five scorers in double-figures, but it was even more remarkable that they had six different players - playing different positions - with double-digits in PIR. They got three guards (Elijah Bryant, Scottie Wilbekin and Chris Jones), two forwards (Dragan Bender and Omri Casspi) and one center (Ante Zizic).

What’s next?

In Round 32 next week Zalgiris Kaunas will remain in Kaunas to host ALBA Berlin on Wednesday, March 31. Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv will also play at home. It takes on current Turkish Airlines Euroleague leader, F.C. Barcelona, the same day.

Dragan Bender - Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv - EB20
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Euroleague.net
Referees: LAMONICA, LUIGI; PANTHER, ANNE; PASTUSIAK, PIOTR
Attendance: 0
By Quarter1234
Zalgiris Kaunas26142318
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv18202624
End of Quarter1234
Zalgiris Kaunas26406381
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv18386488
Zalgiris Kaunas
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
0 WALKUP, THOMAS 23:28 8 2/6 1/5 1/1   3 3 4 2 2     4 3 6
4 LEKAVICIUS, LUKAS 17:51 4 2/5 0/2   1 1 2     3     2   -4
7 GARINO, PATRICIO 3:22                         2   -2
10 HAYES, NIGEL 32:17 24 5/6 3/5 5/6 2 3 5   3       3 5 30
13 JANKUNAS, PAULIUS 23:30 5 0/1 1/2 2/2 1 4 5 3 1         4 16
16 LUKOSIUNAS, KAROLIS 2:54               1             1
23 GEBEN, MARTINAS 1:34               1         1 1 1
24 RUBIT, AUGUSTINE 20:15 7 2/3   3/4 2 3 5     1 2   2 2 11
31 JOKUBAITIS, ROKAS 21:55 11 4/9 1/1         2   1     2   5
32 VASTURIA, STEVE DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
40 GRIGONIS, MARIUS 32:08 14 2/7 3/6 1/2   1 1 6 1 5   1 3 3 7
77 LAUVERGNE, JOFFREY 20:46 8 4/7     6 3 9 1 2 1   2 4 3 13
Team           1 2 3     2         1
Totals 200:00 81 21/44 9/21 12/15 13 20 33 18 9 15 2 3 23 21 85
        47.7% 42.9% 80%
Head coach: SCHILLER, MARTIN
Min: Minutes played; Pts: Points; 2FG M-A: 2-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); 3FG M-A: 3-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); FT M-A: Free Throws (Made-Attempted); Rebounds: O (Offensive), D (Defensive), T (Total); As: Assists; St: Steals; To: Turnovers; Bl: Blocks (Fv: In Favor / Ag: Against); Fouls: Cm (Commited), Rv (Received); PIR: Performance Index Rating
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
0 BRYANT, ELIJAH 20:14 12 1/2 2/4 4/4       2         3 3 11
1 WILBEKIN, SCOTTIE 21:50 12 4/6 1/3 1/1   3 3 3   3     2 4 13
2 CLINE, TJ DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3 JONES, CHRIS 24:04 13 5/6 0/2 3/3 1 2 3 6 4 4     2 4 21
4 CALOIARO, ANGELO 15:48 3   1/2     2 2 1         2   3
6 COHEN, SANDY 9:14   0/1 0/1 0/2   2 2     1     2 1 -4
7 CASSPI, OMRI 15:18 7 2/5   3/5 1 7 8 2   2     1 4 13
11 DORSEY, TYLER 14:31 5 1/3 1/2         1   2   1 2 2  
12 DIBARTOLOMEO, JOHN 14:15 7   1/3 4/5 1   1 1 2       1 2 9
14 BLAYZER, OZ 16:04 3   1/2   1 1 2 1 1 1 1   3 1 4
17 BENDER, DRAGAN 26:44 16 4/4 2/4 2/2 1   1 1   2     1 2 15
23 ZIZIC, ANTE 21:58 10 5/7     2 4 6       2 1 2   13
Team           1 2 3               3
Totals 200:00 88 22/34 9/23 17/22 8 23 31 18 7 15 3 2 21 23 101
        64.7% 39.1% 77.3%
Head coach: SFAIROPOULOS, IOANNIS

Head Coaches

SCHILLER, MARTIN
Zalgiris Kaunas
"First of all, congratulations to Maccabi for winning the game. Generally speaking, like in a bigger picture, I was happy with the level of competition we put on the floor today. It was one of our best games in the last three weeks but, unfortunately, we couldn’t win the game. There were different challenges throughout the game, it was an interesting game. We faced them for the second time without Othello Hunter, so they played Bender at center and as I mentioned before the game, that’s highly interesting offense weapon for them. I think he is better at 5 than at the 4. There are little things you have to do better if you want to win these games, talking about concentration levels, like taking fouls, not committing and ones, getting the rebound on a free throw, etc."
SFAIROPOULOS, IOANNIS
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv
"We played good defense and we had also clear ideas of what to do in offense. After the timeout we got concentrated, we didn’t let them score easy baskets and that allowed us to find good options offensively. We did not panic, we played aggressive defense and then found good solutions to execute. Grigonis and especially Hayes created a lot of problems, but we won three out of four periods, the last three. We [beat] them with good defense, we scored 50 points in the second and I think defense was the key, the defense we played against these players after halftime, as we had also production on offense. We need to fight all the games, game by game."

Players

HAYES, NIGEL
Zalgiris Kaunas
"Obviously it was a must-win game for us, but we weren’t able to do that. We showed a lot of good, two stretches in the game we had good spots, but I think we dropped the ball on turnovers and not making the smart necessary plays like sometimes taking the fouls in transition, not giving and-ones, making sure to get the rebounds, the free throws. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, we have to play 90% percent of perfection to win games, we were probably 85% today and the result didn’t go in our favor."
JONES, CHRIS
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv
"[The key for what happened in the end was] being poised, just trying to show ourselves, to everybody else, that we still have to fight regardless the standings. It’s just a couple of games left, and we have to continue fighting, no matter the outcome. It’s a great win on the road. [Our goal was] just being aggressive, to pay attention to details, and be focused on their key players, it was a great team win. [Our approach for next games is] just continue to fight no matter the outcome or the standings, and to build within ourselves."
BENDER, DRAGAN
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv
"[This win] is really important for us. We know we are out of the playoffs but we want to fight these last games. We want to show we are still a good team, still playing hard on both ends of the floor no matter what and I think we showed that tonight. We showed how to play defense, how to be tough on defense, and everybody showed up in offense. We had five players in double-digits in scoring and that’s proof of a team offense, and how to play in the upcoming games."
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