Hapoel Jerusalem guard Bracey Wright.
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa can both clinch early spots among the final 16 teams in the Eurocup with Wednesday wins.
Jerusalem, which currently leads Last 32 Group M with a 3-1 record, will be a firm favorite to overcome Olimpija Ljubljana at Malha Arena, while Haifa faces a tricky visit to CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic.
Hapoel came tantalizingly close to securing its progress two weeks ago before ultimately losing 96-93 at Budivelnik Kiev, snapping a five-game winning streak in the competition.
However, Jerusalem improved to a 15-3 record in the BSL with its 12th consecutive league victory on Sunday, beating Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, and defeated Ljubljana 69-66 on the road in their Last 32 opener.
The Slovenians enter Wednesday’s game with a 1-3 record and need to defeat Hapoel, preferably by more than three points, to keep alive their small chance of progressing.
Jerusalem will be guaranteed to finish among the group’s top two and advance to the knockout rounds of the competition with a game to spare should it win, and can already wrap up first place if Kiev also beats Banvit Bandirma on Wednesday.
“This is a very important game for us against a very strong opponent that is fighting for qualification to the next phase,” said Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin, who has been in inspired form recently. “We will need a strong team effort to prevail and continue on to the knockout rounds.”
With Khimki Moscow running away with Group K as expected, Haifa, Nymburk and Montepaschi Siena have been left to fight it out for the second last 16 berth.
Haifa currently sits in second place with a 2-2 record, a game ahead of its rivals, but could find itself in serious trouble should it lose on Wednesday.
A victory at Nymburk will secure the Greens a place in the knockout rounds, but a defeat would seriously complicate their situation, with Haifa to host Khimki at Romema Arena in its final Group K game next week.
Haifa, which defeated Nymburk 80-75 at Romema in their group opener, beat Hapoel Holon for its sixth BSL win from its past seven games on Sunday, with new American forward Adrian Henning, who was signed to replace the injured Ike Ofoegbu, scoring 11 points in his debut.