Tel Aviv, Israel – As seven Euroleague teams compete for the three playoff spots with two games remaining, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv clashed with Herbalife Gran Canaria of Spain at Menora Mivtachim Arena. Maccabi knew they had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive and with significant contributions from two budding NBA prospects, in 20-year-old Yovel Zoosman and 18-year-old Deni Avdija, they responded to the challenge en route to a decisive 90-55 victory. Zoosman scored seven points, while adding five rebounds and two assists. Avdija contributed 10 points and five rebounds while showing a high basketball IQ. Gran Canaria’s most consistent offensive player on the season, Markus Eriksson, was held to just seven points on 3-of-14 shooting. With the win, Maccabi Tel Aviv improved its record to 14-15, while keeping its playoff hopes alive into the final round of games. The Spanish side fell to 8-21 with one game left in Euroleague Competition.
Zoosman’s impact in Maccabi’s win went well beyond the box score. His effort and intensity on the defensive end of the floor was noteworthy. One of his strong suits all season long has been his ability to contain, if not stop the opposition’s best offensive player. He never gave Eriksson room to breathe and constantly contested shots and moved his feet to deny driving lanes or short jumpers. The Maccabi shooting guard’s athleticism and solid size were on display especially when he attacked the rim. He does a good job following his shot and his teammates shots as well. Multiple times in this game, he pushed the ball up the floor following his defensive rebound and set up the hosts for successful offensive possessions against an off-balance defense displayed by the visitors. He moves well without the ball and helps create space for shooters by drawing a lot of attention.
Fellow future NBA draft prospect (expected to enter in 2020), Avdija got his first taste of extended Euroleague minutes in the second half and helped quiet the visitors following their 6-0 run. The young Israeli forward was asked to handle the ball in multiple pick-n-roll scenarios and showed impressive patience and good decision making. He did a very nice job recognizing when to cut to the basket on both the weak and strong sides. Particularly impressive was his confidence and the hop in his step when he was out on the floor. His ability to drive to the basket and finish through contact on the first or second try is impressive for a teenager. He hustled back on defense on every opportunity and used the rule of verticality well to force difficult shots.
Herbalife Gran Canaria’s star, Eriksson, struggled to get anything going offensively for much of the night and defensively was not much of a factor either. However, he still showcased what made him his team’s only double-digit scorer (10.0 PPG) to have played in all 29 Euroleague games. He scored four of his team’s nine first quarter points. On both occasions he showed the soft touch that he’s been known for over the course of the season. The Swedish international did a good job in creating space off the dribble and knocked down a shot over the top of Zoosman before attacking him and stopping on a dime. On the rest of his shots he really struggled against Maccabi’s terrific on ball defense and was constantly forced to fade away or shoot with very little breathing room. Defensively, much like the rest of his teammates, he did not offer much resistance and showed little effort in attempting to shut down driving lanes or passing lanes. The Maccabi guards combined for 28 points and 13 assists, while getting their big men plenty of easy layups off pick-n-rolls.
Stat of the Night: Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv for the second consecutive week broke its all-time single game rebounding record with 55 (54 last week) compared to Herbalife Gran Canaria’s 31. The hosts also doubled the visitors assist total with an 18 to nine edge.
Up Next: Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv will visit Fenerbahçe Beko Istanbul (23-6) in Istanbul next Friday night in need of a win and hope that the scores in the other games fall in their favor as a playoff spot will be on the line. Herbalife Gran Canaria will visit Bayern Munich (13-15), another team in need of help to make the postseason.