Hapoel Jerusalem’s Yotam Halperin .
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
The undisputed powerhouses of Israeli basketball meet at the Jerusalem Arena on Sunday night in a showdown from which only one team will extend its perfect start to the BSL campaign.
Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv have dominated their opponents in local action to date, with the former winning its games by an average 18.2 points and the latter doing so by 15.5 points per game.
Both sides are also coming off confidence-boosting wins in continental action. Jerusalem edged Partizan Belgrade 82-79 for its first Eurocup win of the season last week, while Maccabi rebounded from its humbling defeat at the hands of CSKA Moscow with an impressive 84-69 Euroleague victory at Alba Berlin on Thursday.
Tel Aviv holds a resounding 89-15 head-to-head lead over Hapoel, going 49-4 at home and 40-11 on the road.
However, despite the yellowand- blue’s overall dominance against the reds, Jerusalem won two of their four meetings last season and claimed an 81-78 victory in the Winner Cup final during the summer, proving it is no longer overawed by Tel Aviv.
“Everyone knows all about Maccabi, but we are trying to focus on our own play,” said Jerusalem guard and former Maccabi player Yotam Halperin. “This may be a more charged game than usual, but we are focusing on doing our job and winning.”
Maccabi head coach Guy Goodes, who guided Jerusalem between 2008 and 2010, believes his team’s defensive play will be the decisive factor on Sunday night.
“If we defend the way we did against Alba we will win, but if we allow them to score easy baskets we won’t be in a good position,” said Goodes. “Both teams are still undefeated and we will be playing for first place. This may only be the beginning of the season, but I’m sure it will be an interesting game, one which all of Israeli basketball is looking forward to.”
Also Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv (1-3) hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (1-3) and Maccabi Ashdod (0-4) visits Hapoel Eilat (1-3). On Monday, Ironi Nahariya (0-4) welcomes Bnei Herzliya (1-3), Maccabi Rishon Lezion (3-1) goes to Hapoel Holon (3-1) and Maccabi Haifa (2-2) visits Ironi Ness Ziona (3-1).