Yet another scintillating performance by Hapoel Jerusalem saw it beat Budivelnik Kiev 88-84 at Malha Arena on Wednesday night to improve to 3-0 in the Eurocup Last 32. Maccabi Haifa was equally impressive, thrashing Montepaschi Siena 86-66 at Romema Arena to bounce back from last week’s humbling loss at Khimki Moscow.
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After improving to a BSL-best 13-3 record on Monday with its 10th consecutive local league victory, Jerusalem registered its fifth win in a row in continental action and third straight in the Last 32 on Wednesday to close in on a berth in the eighth-finals.
“This is definitely our biggest win in the Eurocup this season,” said Hapoel coach Brad Greenberg after overcoming Kiev, which began the season in the Euroleague.
“We faced a Euroleague team and we had to come back from behind.”
Josh Duncan led Jerusalem with 20 points and five rebounds, while Yotam Halperin contributed 19 points and 10 assists. Bracey Wright and Yaniv Green added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Blake Ahearn led seven Kiev (1-2) players in double figures with 16 points.
Siena also began 2013/14 in European basketball’s premier competition, but was helpless in the second half against Haifa, which improved to 2-1 in Group K after dropping to a 39-point defeat in Russia last week.
The seven-time defending Italian champion held a 38-34 lead after a tight first half, but Haifa seized the initiative with a sensational third quarter, outscoring Siena 27-9 to open a 14-point gap (61-47) before cruising in the final 10 minutes.
“I didn’t expect the game to end like this,” admitted Haifa coach Danny Franco. “I enjoyed myself. This is a very prestigious victory for our club.”
Donta Smith had 24 points in a perfect shooting night (10-of-10 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line), while also contributing six rebounds and six assists for Haifa. Moran Roth proved the knee injury is well and truly behind him with 21 points and six assists, with Brian Randle scoring 16 points. Othello Hunter led Seina (0-3) with 17 points.
Jerusalem coach Greenberg spoke before the encounter of the need to try and slow down Kiev’s run-and-gun game, but was forced to call a timeout less than five minutes into the contest after a basket by Janis Strelnieks opened an early double-digit margin (17-7).
Jerusalem limited the damage to close to within six points (26-20) by the end of the first period and moved into the lead (40- 39) following a Halperin three. Lior Eliyahu’s basket took the gap to six points (47- 41) with three minutes to play in the first half, but Dajuan Summers’s incredible buzzer-beater from beyond the halfway line gave Budivelnik a 56-51 advantage at the break.
After scoring 11-of-19 three-point attempts in the first half, Kiev had every intention to continue and shoot from distance, a tactic which initially paid off and helped reestablish a double-digit cushion (68-58).
However, Hapoel managed to significantly slow the pace of the game in the second half and would ultimately gain the upper hand.
Kiev still held a four-point advantage with 10 minutes to play (71-67), but a 12-2 run gave the hosts a four-point edge (79-75) and clutch baskets by Halperin and Duncan secured another triumph after an exciting night of basketball at Malha.