Credit: Imago Images – Scanpix
Credit Imago Images – Scanpix

These are turbulent times in Tel Aviv and they've been like that for a while now. The Israeli powerhouse is riding an 8-game losing streak in EuroLeague, which has weakened their chances of getting a playoff spot and created tension inside the team. 

2-pointers this season

54%
20,6
Points made: 20,6
Accuracy: 53,5%
Place in standings: 5
Record max: 27
Record min: 11
Most made 2FGs: Ante Zizic

It was quite the turnaround for a team that, from Round 4 to Round 8, was living a fantastic moment and put together 5 wins in a row. But since Round 11, everything started to fall apart quickly, and now changes are on the way. 

But let's try to explain this 8-game losing streak. What really went wrong during this period? 

If we take a look at the numbers from Round 11 to Round 18. Maccabi have the second-worst defensive rating of the competition (119.3 points allowed per 100 possessions), the fourth-worst offensive rating (105.6 points per 100 possessions), and the second-worst net rating (-13.7).

During the same period, Maccabi are also the worst team of the EuroLeague in terms of turnovers per game, averaging 15.1 per game.

The team coached by Ioannis Sfairopoulos has also struggled to protect the 3-point line, allowing their opponents to shoot an average of 39.6% from downtown, the fourth-worst team in this category.

The Israeli side also allows an astonishing 61.5% in terms of true-shooting percentage to their opponents, the second-worst in the league. 

Those numbers are basically a criminal report, not a statistical outlook. As of right now, nothing is working for the Israeli side. The offense is stagnant. During the 8-game losing streak, they only shot 34.6% from three-point, the fourth-worst team in this category.

They scored more than 80 points on just one occasion against ALBA Berlin on November 25, when they lost 91-86 more than one month ago.

The turnovers are killing their rhythm, and down the stretch, the team often becomes too predictable, putting the ball in Scottie Wilbekin's hands and hoping that he'd get them out of jail every time. 

On the defensive end, Maccabi doesn't do a good job in protecting the perimeter, they often allow open three-pointers, and the one-on-one defense is not strong enough. Aside from Keenan Evans, the others really struggle to keep their men and allow easy drives to the basket.

There's not enough pressure, their opponents move the ball too easily and find easy baskets too often. The only good thing that can be said about their defense is that they grab a solid number of defensive rebounds, mostly because of Ante Zizic and Jalen Reynolds' presence. That's it, the rest has been really hard to watch. 

But aside from the situation on the court, there's also a growing tension in the locker room. After such a long losing streak, coach Sfairopoulos' job has definitely become more unstable.

Despite the reports coming from Israel about an imminent decision to fire the Greek coach, sources close to the Israeli club denied to BasketNews that coach Sfairopoulos would lose his job right away, even if another EuroLeague loss will arrive in the next game.

Finding another high-level coach in the middle of the season would be extremely complicated and definitely not cheap. Maccabi are not in a superb financial situation right now, so the front office must carefully consider every move. 

Changes in the roster, though, might arrive sooner rather than later. James Nunnally has been left out of the team for an away game against Monaco. A few weeks ago, the American player had an altercation with a teammate during a practice session but the tension between him and the rest of the environment remained.

The player now finds himself in some kind of limbo, multiple sources told BasketNews. He might leave the team but a final decision on his future hasn't been taken yet and due to the financial situation of the club, he might remain at least for a little bit longer, according to a source.

Nunnally was one of the main additions made by Maccabi over the summer. So far, he has averaged 12.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game in EuroLeague. But his assimilation inside the team has been complicated, sources told BasketNews.

Inside the locker room, there has been a feeling that Nunnally created his own small group together with Derrick Williams and Jalen Reynolds. Both of them were two main additions made by Maccabi Tel Aviv during the offseason, and that has created tension inside the environment, a source told BasketNews.

The Israeli team is already exploring the market to find a replacement for Nunnally. Despite the rumors about a potential interest for American guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, sources close to the club told BasketNews that a deal between the two sides won't happen. 

According to a source, the position of another offseason addition, Kameron Taylor, also remains unsafe. Taylor, a rookie at the EuroLeague level, has been basically a non-factor offensively, averaging 2.6 points per game while shooting only 15.8% from the 3-point line. 

The new year will most likely bring the return of Croatian forward Dragan Bender. The former Phoenix Suns player will re-join the team but his timetable to return after last season's knee injury is still unclear. 

Also, some of the issues in the team have been created by the fact that the group of local players is definitely less deep than other seasons. Only Roman Sorkin, who's dealing with a hand injury now, and John DiBartolomeo provide some minutes in the EuroLeague rotations. 

From that perspective, the departure of a player like Yovel Zoosman, who joined ALBA Berlin during the off-season, has been really tough to handle for the club. 

Turning things around might be the only way for Maccabi to keep the boat afloat. Another disappointing European season could lead to a new complete reshuffling of the roster and might cast doubts on the future of the two stars of the team - Wilbekin and Zizic. 

It's time to react for Maccabi Tel Aviv or to fade into the reality of another poor season. 

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2022-01-10
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Ante Zizic

Ante  Zizic
Ante  Zizic
MIN: 21.58
PTS: 12.14 (68.46%)
REB: 5.64
As: 0.36
ST: 0.5
BL: 0.93
TO: 1.36
GM: 14