Maccabi Tel Aviv climbed to the top of the BSL standings in emphatic fashion on Monday night, trouncing Hapoel Jerusalem 93-71 at Nokia Arena to end any illusion it had lost its status as the dominant force in Israeli basketball.
Jerusalem entered the encounter on the back of a 13-game winning streak and was looking to open a two-game gap over Maccabi with its second victory of the season over the yellow-and-blue.
Tel Aviv, on the other hand, was crushed by 35 points by CSKA Moscow in Euroleague action on Friday, although it had triumphed in its previous 10 BSL contests.
Monday’s showdown was never really a contest, with Maccabi outscoring Jerusalem 25-8 in the first quarter. The hosts never allowed the visitors any closer than seven points before piling the misery on Hapoel by scoring 17 of the final 21 points of the night.
After missing the game against CSKA, Devin Smith returned from a one-week layoff with an outstanding display, equaling his career-high in the BSL with 29 points, hitting 11-of-14 field goals, including 7-of-8 three-pointers, while also grabbing eight rebounds. Sylven Landesberg added 16 points, with Sofoklis Schortsanitis scoring 15 points for Maccabi, which hit 20-of-28 shots from two-point range (71%) and 13-of-28 attempts from beyond the arc (46%).
“Everyone blew everything out of proportion as usual because no one really understands,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt, who had to manage without the injured Alex Tyus and lost Yogev Ohayon to an eye injury early in the game. “We lost to CSKA in a bad game, playing with half a roster.
It was no big deal, but it gave me a chance to speak to the players’ hearts. We were super-motivated to play for first place tonight and we are there now.”
Bracey Wright had 18 points for Jerusalem, with Derwin Kitchen scoring 11 in his return from an ankle sprain.
Jerusalem coach Brad Greenberg was courteous in defeat.
“Maccabi was just superb, both in defense and offense,” said Greenberg. “They built an early lead thanks to their aggressiveness.
We fought, but we couldn’t come close.”
Also Monday, Hapoel Eilat improved to 11-9 with a 79-74 victory at Maccabi Rishon Lezion (6-14).
Elishay Kadir had 19 points and 14 rebounds for Eliat, which held its composure the better of the two teams to clinch the victory in the closing minutes. Tasmin Mitchell scored 17 points for Rishon.