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Photo by: Adi Avishai
Jerusalem’s fate hangs on Nymburk clash
By ALLON SINAI
12/12/2012
Hapoel still has remote chance of advancing to last-16 if it beats Czechs and leapfrogs Kiev.
 
Anything short of a remarkable performance at CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic on Wednesday night will likely see Hapoel Jerusalem crash out of the Eurocup regular season for a third straight year.

Jerusalem ensured it would still have its fate in its own hands entering the final game in Group A after beating BC Prienai of Lithuania 92-79 at Malha Arena last week.

Hapoel improved to 2-3, but it will likely have to thrash Nymburk and for Group A’s other game to go its way to progress to the last-16 for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals in 2009/10.

Should Budivelnik Kiev beat Prienai on the road in their final game, which will tip-off at the same time as Jerusalem’s, Hapoel will need to defeat Nymburk by at least 17 points in order to claim the tiebreaker over the Czechs and climb up to second place in the group.

Nymburk beat Hapoel 86-69 when the teams met at Malha Arena earlier this season, with the Czechs, coached by Israeli Ronen Ginzburg, crucially outscoring Sharon Drucker’s men 24- 14 in the final frame.

If Prienai beats Kiev and Jerusalem gets the better of Nymburk than all four teams in Group A will finish with a 3-3 record, meaning overall points differential will determine which two teams advance to the last-16.

Hapoel would then need the margin of its victory combined with that of Prienai’s to reach at least 27 points to finish ahead of Kiev and stay alive.

Nymburk began Group A with two straight wins, but its situation was complicated after it lost two of its last three games.

Nevertheless, the Czechs have been dominant in their two home games so far, beating Kiev and Prienai by an average 18.5 points.

As well as winning two of its last three Eurocup games, Hapoel has also triumphed in five of its past six BSL encounters.

Despite seemingly steadying the ship after a rocky start to the season, Jerusalem remains largely dependent on its erratic shooting.

Hapoel shot 57 percent from the field, including 6-of-13 from threepoint range, in the win over Prienai before hitting 54% of its shots, including 12-of-25 from beyond the arc, in Sunday’s 103-92 BSL win against Maccabi Haifa.

Jerusalem’s top scorer in both the Eurocup and BSL so far this season has been Craig Smith, who provides the team with much-needed points in the paint rather than unreliable jump shots.

The 29-year-old, who is playing outside the NBA for the first time in his career after six seasons with the Wolves, Clippers and Trail Blazers, has also quickly established a leadership role in the roster.

“Sometimes your teammates need to hear it from you and not necessarily just from the coach,” said Smith when asked why he decided to address the team during one of its timeouts on Sunday.

“I always try to spur on my teammates.”
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