It was an eventful EuroLeague campaign for Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, which made its first playoff appearance since 2015. Here’s a look back.
Season in Review: Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv
In the now-famous 2004 Top 16 finale, the one that saw Derrick Sharp’s miracle three save Maccabi against Zalgiris Kaunas and set the stage for back-to-back championships, Sarunas Jasikevicius set the club’s scoring record with 37 points. The following season, Saras scored 34 against the same team. That was the only time a player ever came within a shot of the club scoring record for the next 16 years. And then, in Round 10 against AS Monaco, Scottie Wilbekin went wild to tie the record with 37 points. He made 6 of 12 three-pointers in the memorable performance and also dished 8 assists in racking up a personal best PIR of 37.
Maccabi finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak to storm into the playoffs in fifth place. However, its spot in the playoffs was anything but certain prior to that winning run. In fact, Maccabi had lost two of its previous three. The momentum changed with a Round 31 home win over AX Armani Exchange Milan. Maccabi never trailed in the game thanks to a dominant performance by the big men on offense and the guards on defense. Maccabi forced Milan into 19 turnovers and held them to just 9 assists. And centers Ante Zizic and Jalen Reynolds combined for 26 points and 11 rebounds. From that point onward, Maccabi soared to make its first playoff appearance since 2015.
He’s got next
Roman Sorkin showcased his growth in his first EuroLeague campaign by posting two of his finest games in the last month of the season. The big man scored 13 points in less than 20 minutes in a Round 34 road win at FC Barcelona and posted 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in Game 1 of the playoffs against Real Madrid. Sorkin missed time during the season and played less than 4 minutes in nearly one-third of his 22 appearances. But Maccabi had a winning regular-season record when Sorkin played at least 10 minutes and that could be something that happens a lot more often in the years to come.
For a team that has as much experience as Maccabi, it was interesting to see six players make their EuroLeague debuts this season. Keenan Evans ended up starting in all but three games and his 832 minutes were fourth-most on the team. Kameron Taylor played in 19 games before he was loaned out to SIG Strasbourg in France. Iftah Ziv (23 games) and Roman Sorkin (22) played big roles. The other two debutants, Khyri Thomas (13) and Oded Brandwein (1), were mid-season additions. It is unlikely that all six of those players will don Maccabi’s yellow-and-blue next season, but those who do will have a wealth of experience to build on.