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Maccabi-Olimpia is the Fall Classic, Coach Messina: “We need to play as a team”


Maccabi has won only 30% of the games played during this EuroLeague campaign and have fallen at home twice, but the hard and cold data hide four losses suffered within three points of margin and indicate the slight difference that could have made Maccabi’s record a lot better. Maccabi-Olimpia is one of the European Basketball classic and has always shown a tendency to favor the home team. In the EuroLeague era, out of 18 games, the home team prevailed 15 times including nine of the last 10 games played. Olimpia have only won three times in Tel Aviv, but never during the EuroLeague era.

OLIMPIA – After the Tel Aviv classic, Olimpia will have three weeks of double EuroLeague games, a Herculean tour de force made more complicated by the Italian league games which in December will include all high-ranking opponents. Olimpia is 4-3 in the EuroLeague and is fresh off the victory over Zalgiris at home in a game in which Kevin Punter and Malcolm Delaney, both returning from injuries, played at a very high level. Punter missed the first five games of this EuroLeague, Delaney was injured against Real Madrid. Vlado Micov missed the first four games, and Gigi Datome missed the last two.

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We face a great team, one team with tradition, talented players and its coach’s mentality represents a serious contender for this year’s Final Four. They have so many resources, it’s difficult to point out an area that we need to control to win the game. In truth, we need to play a team game, both offensively and defensively in order to have the chance to prevail.”

KYLE HINES – “They are coming off a couple of tough losses and will play a high-energy, very intense, game. For us, it has to be the same, essentially. We had a couple of suspended games, and we need to take advantage of every opportunity. In the EuroLeague every road game is an opportunity, it’s crucial to be ready to take advantage of it, should the opportunity arise.”

MACCABI – Last Monday, in the win over Hapoel Eilat for the Israeli league, after almost 12 months of absence, Omri Casspi, the 32-year-old forward with long NBA stints, and point-guard John Di Bartolomeo, returned to the court. Their comebacks make the rotation deeper, with nine players returning from last season’s campaign. The most relevant newcomers are Ante Zizic, a center back to Europe after an NBA stint in Cleveland, and Dragan Bender who had already been playing for Maccabi before joining the NBA himself. The team’s star however remains Scottie Wilbekin, a 17.6 points per game scorer, fourth overall, to go along 3.9 assists per game. Wilbekin has scored at least two threes in 37 of his last 38 EuroLeague games. Center Zizic is averaging 10.7 points per game, is converting 60.3 percent of his two-pointers and is the best team rebounder with 6.6 per game, ahead of veteran Othello Hunter (5.0). Guard Tony Dorsey is also scoring in double figures, while Angelo Caloiaro, who can play both forward positions, is the best three-point shooter of the team, converting 47.6 percent of his attempts.

THE REFEREES –Juan Carlos Garcia (Spain), Damir Javor (Croatia), Mehdi Difallah (France).

THE MACCABI CONNECTION – Othello Hunter played at Olympiacos Piraeus for the current Milan’s general manager, Christos Stavropoulos (coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos, now at Maccabi, was the head coach of that team too), and at CSKA Moscow he played along Sergio Rodriguez with whom he won the 2019 EuroLeague championship. Michael Roll played at Maccabi for two years, appearing in 58 EuroLeague games and 68 Israeli league contests.

NOTES – Gigi Datome has an open streak of 21 free throws made. Vlado Micov has an open streak of nine games with at least one made three. He has scored at least a three-pointer in 14 of his last 15 games played. Sergio Rodriguez has scored at least one three in 19 of his last 20 appearances. Kevin Punter has scored a three in each of his last 14 EuroLeague games and has a streak of 11 consecutive double-digit games going. In his second appearance of the season, against Zalgiris Kaunas, Kevin Punter set his PIR record with 29. Kyle Hines surpassed 2,500 career points in the last game. Currently, he is 14th all-time 19 points behind Jaka Lakovic’s 13th place. Hines is also eight offensive rebounds shy of 600 for his career, 15 two-pointers from his 1,000 and is also  one assist of 300 for his career.