Hapoel Tel Aviv players were in great spirits after a dominant 78-58 victory over city-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
In case there was any doubt, Maccabi Tel Aviv is in the midst of a full-blown crisis.
Less than six months after winning the Euroleague title, Maccabi was embarrassed for the third time in a week on Monday, dropping to a humbling 78-58 home defeat to arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Hapoel opened a 15-point gap (25-10) by the end of the first quarter and was never even challenged, cruising to a memorable win in the second half.
The yellow-and-blue was brimming with confidence just last week. It entered the BSL showdown with Hapoel Jerusalem with a 4-0 record and on the back of an impressive Euroleague road win over Alba Berlin.
However, it suffered its heaviest- ever defeat in local action in Jerusalem on Sunday, losing 93-63 before falling at home to the previously winless Cedevita Zagreb on Thursday.
Incredibly, matters only went from bad to worse on Monday, with Maccabi looking completely clueless from the tip-off until the final buzzer against what was supposed to be an inferior Hapoel team.
Larry O’Bannon was sensational on his debut for Hapoel, finishing with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Durand Scott added 18 points with Yancy Gates scoring 14 points for the reds, who improved to 3-3.
“We played great defense,” said Hapoel coach Oded Katash. “We stuck to our game-plan and I’m very proud of my players. We played a great game.”
Devin Smith was Maccabi’s only player in double figures, scoring 20 points. Maccabi coach Guy Goodes, who was ejected in the fourth quarter, will not have long to mull over the defeat, with the yellow-and-blue already leaving for Spain on Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s Euroleague encounter against Unicaja Malaga.
“This is not a simple crisis,” admitted Goodes. “We are in a deep hole, especially from a mental standpoint. We are trying to climb out of it, but we can’t manage to do so. But as I told the guys, you can’t give up.”
Hapoel got off to a fast start and never looked back. O’Bannon scored four quick points on his debut and a three-pointer by Raviv Limonad gave the visitors an early 9-2 lead.
Maccabi was helpless, with a Jonathan Skjoldebrand triple taking the gap to double digits (16-4) for the first time. Hapoel continued to extend its cushion until the end of the first period, opening a 25-10 advantage after 10 minutes.
Maccabi committed seven turnovers in the first quarter, but more importantly it lost captain Guy Pnini to injury. Pnini left for the dressing room and Maccabi fears that he injured his Achilles heel, which would sideline him for an extended period of time.
The yellow-and-blue looked shell-shocked and Limonad’s basket midway through the second quarter extended the margin to 20 points (32-12).
Another basket by Limonad at the buzzer gave Hapoel a 36-18 lead at the break, even though that was only the team’s third field goal in 11 attempts in the quarter.
Maccabi erased 18-point deficits in the past, but there was no way back on Monday. The yellow- and-blue never came close to Hapoel in the second half, dropping to a defeat it will not forget for many years.
Also Monday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion continued its superb start to the season, improving to 5-1 with a straightforward 101-81 win over Hapoel Eilat (1-5).
Isaiah Swann led six Rishon players in double figures with 24 points, including five three-pointers.