Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv survived a brave effort from visiting Olympiacos Piraeus on Thursday night and Scottie Wilbekin capped a massive comeback with a three-pointer 10.6 seconds before the end, lifting Maccabi to 71-70 win and sending a packed Menor Mivtachim Arena into a frenzy.
Maccabi was down 55-62 points with 5 minutes to go and trailed 68-72 with Olympiacos with the ball as the game entered its last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. But Wilbekin stepped up, first drawing - and making - 3 free throws with 25 seconds left and then - following split fouls shots from Wade Baldwin IV - he remained cool from long range to sink what turned out to be a game-winning triple.
"Tyler [Dorsey] did a great job of drawing my man, and at the end of the day, it was just an open three, and I am used to those", Wilbekin said after the game while the fans in the arena were still singing in jubilation.
The play had Dorsey with the ball attacking and drawing attention, only for him to dish it to Wilbekin for the three-pointer. And no matter how cool Wilbekin remained, what he delivered was more than just a fourth straight win.
It was the type of win that when teams finish big seasons, they look back to as turning points. Maccabi believed it could come back, hit clutch shots down the stretch, played great defense and was aided by some errors, missed foul shots and turnovers by the opponents.
"I want to congratulate our players for one more win," Coach Sfairopoulos said afterward. "With the way that this win came, it was more important. I think it was important that we didn't give up. We fought until the end. We believed that we could win. And this is the reason that we won. I congratulate the players because they fought until the end. They played very good defense the last three or four minutes."
Maccabi finally climbed into sole possession of fourth place in the standings, which carries with it homecourt advantage in the playoffs. The club has not been in the playoffs since 2015 and has not had homecourt advantage in the playoffs since 2010, but now with eight games remaining holds that opportunity in its own hands.
Homecourt advantages are traditionally big, especially for teams like Maccabi, which improved to 12-1 on its home floor with this win. And as the team is getting some of the injured players back, like Yovel Zoosman and Quincy Acy in this contest, there is plenty of reasons for excitement around the proud club.