On a night when Scottie Wilbekin didn't score at all in the first half and the team's No. 3 scorer, Tyler Dorsey, finished the game with just a single point, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv still managed to get to 91 points in its victory over TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. One of the players who stepped into the void with his best game of the season was 22-year-old guard Yovel Zoosman.
After missing the first 12 games of the season, Zoosman's impact on the team had been minimal this season. He tallied 11 points, 2 assists and a performance index rating of 7 in 79:19 minutes over his first seven appearances. On Thursday, Zoosman shined with 11 points on 3-for-4 three-point shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal for a PIR of 16 in 24:28.
Zoosman's impact on the game was far more than just his numbers. In his post-game summary of the game, Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos explained: "I think that in general, in the third period they scored just 17 points; that was our best defensive period. We slowly started to get a bigger lead. They came back, but in the end, I think we saw our character and we won the game."
During the third quarter, Zoosman was at his best. He played 7:57 minutes in the third during which he amassed 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. First he found an open Dragan Bender for a dunk and an 8-point lead. Later, after the visitors closed the gap to 51-48, Zoosman beat Baskonia defensive ace Pierria Henry for a layup and then buried his second three of the game.
Naturally, Zoosman chose to focus more on his defense than his offense when he spoke to reporters after the game.
"My confidence does not come from making or missing any specific shot or the success of any play. If I’m alone I need to shoot - and if I miss, I need to shoot the next shot. I think I was more involved today," Zoosman said. "On every team, there is room for a defensive player. Usually, the player who wants it more – of course, there are some players who are ridiculously talented – but the player who wants it more will win. He'll take the 50/50 balls, he'll get the rebounds. We got the 50/50 balls, we got the rebounds and we won."
Zoosman's effort was nothing extraordinary. His hustle is a given whenever he is on the floor. However, his heady play with the ball and great shooting allowed Maccabi to thrive on a night when two of its best scorers had off nights. And with only five weeks under his belt this season, Zoosman is just finding his rhythm, which is good news for the Israeli champs.