Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv has registered its first consecutive wins of the season after a defensive battle resulting in a 63-67 victory on the court of TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. The obvious key to the win was a Maccabi defensive effort that allowed just 9 points in a tight fourth quarter and held Baskonia to 5-for-27 three-point shooting.
"We tried to get back to Maccabi ball, everybody fought hard for the win", one of the main protagonists, Maccabi veteran center Othello Hunter, said after the game. "We've been losing. We want to win. So everybody knew that we wanted to come in here and try to fight."
But the reason why this victory could be even more important in the long run is that Maccabi achieved it without much of the contribution of its two main scorers. Scottie Wilbekin entered the game averaging 18.0 points and Elijah Bryant averaged 10.8, but each scored just 5 points against Baskonia. The entire Maccabi starting lineup scored only 18 points, shooting 5-for-16 on two-pointers and 2-for-9 from long range.
But the bench stepped up in a major way.
One of the big roles belonged to Hunter, especially in a key 2-16 run in the second quarter, during which he scored 8 of his 12 points and pulled down 3 offensive rebounds that visibly boosted Maccabi's energy. He also had a blocked shot, leading Maccabi in erasing a 10-point second-quarter deficit.
The other main protagonist was Tyler Dorsey, who had a big bounce-back game. Dorsey entered the game shooting 1-for-12 from long range over the previous four games, failing to make a single three in his last three games. The streak way actually a little longer. Since he set a club record with 8-for-13 in Round 5 win against Khimki Moscow Region, Dorsey was 5-for-26 entering this game. In Vitoria-Gasteiz, Dorsey made 3 of 6 triples, scored a team-high 15 points, and added 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Back-up point guard Chris Jones had a big role, too, with 10 points and 4 assists in less than 16 minutes on the floor. Yovel Zoosman, in his first appearance of the season, scored 5 points, while Angelo Caloiaro hit important shots in the second half.
Interestingly, after going scoreless in the first quarter, Maccabi's bench went on to score all but 6 of Maccabi's last 55 points, outscoring Baskonia's bench 49-13 for the night.
The win might have not been pretty, but it might have been just what Maccabi needed as a team hoping to make a run as the regular season approaches its midway point.