Less than 48 hours after a memorable win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Jerusalem
faces arguably its toughest game of the season so far when it visits Khimki
Moscow in Eurocup action on Wednesday.
A Yotam Halperin three-pointer
with 25 seconds to play gave Jerusalem an 87- 85 win over Maccabi in BSL action
on Monday, its first home victory over the yellow-and-blue in five
Much of the talk after the game focused on the officiating, with
referee Gili Oved keeping Derwin Kitchen’s wayward pass in play to allow
Halperin to hit the go-ahead basket and with the officials failing to correctly
count Jerusalem’s fouls in the fourth quarter.
However, Hapoel had little
time to mull over Monday night’s incidentpacked showdown at Malha Arena, already
flying out to Russia early Tuesday morning.
Jerusalem snapped a two-game
losing streak in the Eurocup and improved to 4-3 in Group E last week, beating
Igokea Aleksandrovac of Bosnia 85-71 at Malha.
Hapoel closed in on
qualification for the Last 32 by strengthening its place in the top three,
opening a two-game lead over fourth place with three more regular season games
However, it faces an extremely difficult opponent on Wednesday,
with Khimki winning its past six games in the competition to lead the group with
a 6-1 record.
Moscow beat Hapoel 87-80 in doubleovertime when the teams
met at Malha in October, with Khimki leading for much of the night thanks to its
proficiency from three-point range, ending the game with 17 three pointers from
44 attempts (38.6%).
“Despite the fact that we have already qualified for
the Last 32, we plan to take first place in our group, so we need a win over
Hapoel,” said Khimki coach Rimas Kurtinaitis. “The first game in Jerusalem
turned out to be very tough and I’m happy we managed to suppress our opponent in
the second overtime, although we could have solved our problems
Kurtinaitis’s star-studded roster includes Paul Davis (15.4
ppg, 6.2 rpg), Petteri Koponen (12.3 ppg), Sergey Monia (12.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and
Marko Popovic (11.4 ppg) among others, but the Lithuanian remains wary of
“Hapoel has added to its roster ex- Maccabi Tel Aviv forward
Lior Eliyahu and he’s had good games for his new club,” he noted. “In comparison
with the beginning of the season, Halperin is playing much better. We are ready
and have only one goal – to win this game.”
Maccabi Haifa can officially
secure its progress to the Last 32 with a victory over VEF Riga at Romema Arena
Haifa beat MZT Skopje 79-60 at Romema last week to improve
to 5-2 and will also all but guarantee itself the runners-up position in Group G
should it beat the Latvians.
Haifa will be playing its fourth game in a
week, beating Barak Netanya in the BSL on Friday before losing to Hapoel
Gilboa/Galil on Sunday.
“We know Riga is a good team which is very well
coached and has experienced players,” said Haifa coach Danny Franco, who is
hoping his players have enough energy left in the tank for Wednesday’s
“We are facing a difficult challenge and we will need the
support of our fans.”
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