Maccabi Tel Aviv edge out Roca team in tight contest

AS Monaco basketball’s difficulties on the road in the Euroleague continued as they succumbed to a narrow 95-84 defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel on Wednesday.
Tel Aviv’s Scottie Wilbekin was the architect of their downfall, registering a career-best 37 points to put the game tantalisingly out-of-reach of La Roca side, who remained in the game until the closing stages.
Defeat for Zvezdan Mitrovic’s side extended their winless away run, with their last, and only, Euroleague victory on the road coming in early October against Unics. Perhaps more disappointingly for Mitrovic, his side didn’t manage to build upon last week’s empathic displays, and continue their momentum towards the Euroleague play-offs.
Maccabi Tel Aviv hit the front early, racing into a first quarter lead; Wilbekin provided a glimpse of what was to come as he manufactured space on the edge of the arc and accurately dispatched for his first three-pointer of the match. Moments later, Tel Aviv’s Derrick Williams converted another three-pointer, the Israeli side’s dynamic attacking movement this time creating space on the right touchline, as they rushed into a six-point lead.
Wilbekin’s full repertoire of skills was on display in the opening quarter, his incisive running creating a series of two-point scores that were converted either by himself or by his teammates, who were primed to capitalise on the space that he was creating. His impressive change of direction also carved out more opportunities at the edge of the arc, ultimately converting half of his 12 attempted three-pointers.
Tel Aviv ended the first quarter with a 26-19 lead, this was, however, quickly eradicated by Monaco in the second quarter, with their aggressive defence limiting the Israeli side’s chances. Donta Hall and the impressive Dwayne Bacon led the comeback for La Roca side; a three-pointer from Bacon on the buzzer saw the Principality side take a narrow 44-41 lead into half-time.
In the third quarter, the pendulum once again swung back in favour of the Israeli side, whose superior accuracy saw them take a slender 62-61 lead into the final quarter.
Wilbekin was once more imperious in the final quarter and continued to run the game. The prolific point scorer turned creator on numerous occasions, whilst his ability to glide past players saw him register a flurry of two and three-pointers to take the game away from Monaco.
Until the final moments it had been a highly competitive, tight game, but the unstoppable Wilbekin, coupled with a waning La Roca side in the closing stages, gave the scoreline an emphatic sheen for Tel Aviv, as the Israeli side came out 95-84 winners.
Post-match Monaco coach Mitrovic recognised the key role played by Wilbekin, saying, “It was a beautiful battle for 30 minutes. We knew how to respond to Maccabi, but in the face of the mad performance from Wilbekin, it was difficult to keep up.”
Monaco will be hoping to return to winning ways in their next fixture away to Anadolu Efes on Friday.
Photo source: AS Monaco Basketball