Maccabi Tel Aviv is on course to claim the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs after leapfrogging Hapoel Jerusalem into first place in the standings on Saturday night with an 83-79 victory at Malha Arena.
Maccabi improved to a 21-6 record, moving one-game ahead of Jerusalem (20-7) with one regular season contest to play. A win over Maccabi Haifa at Nokia Arena in two weeks time will secure the yellow-and-blue the top seed in the postseason, while Jerusalem can return to first place with a victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv and a Maccabi loss to Haifa.
Maccabi surged ahead in the second quarter at Malha and led by 17 points (66-49) with 10 minutes to play. Jerusalem fought back to close to within two points ahead of the final minute, but the yellow-and-blue held on to gain a measure of revenge after suffering a humbling 28-point defeat to Hapoel at Nokia three weeks ago.
Ricky Hickman had 15 points for Maccabi, which was without the suspended Sofoklis Schortsanitis and the injured Yogev Ohayon. Guy Pnini added 13 points and Tyrese Rice finished with 12 points and seven assists for Maccabi, which hit 12-of-19 three-point shots, including all eight attempts in the first half.
“I’m not sure how important it is to finish in first place considering the current format, but it will feel good,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt, with the No. 1 seed to have the advantage of hosting the second game of the two-legged playoff final.
Lior Eliyahu led Jerusalem with 21 points, while Bracey Wright scored 19, Ronald Dupree netted 17 and Derwin Kitchen contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds.