Maccabi Tel Aviv players celebrate after winning the Euroleague Final Four final basketball game against Real Madrid, in Milan May 18, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The BSL Final Four is just one month away, but the title race seems to only be getting vaguer by the day.
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem once more set themselves a clear goal of winning the league championship at the start of the season and midway through the campaign, Hapoel Holon looked likely to become a main challenger, lifting the State Cup along the way.
But with Maccabi and Jerusalem experiencing a roller-coaster campaign which has included significantly more lows than highs, and Holon losing its way following the exit of star Glen Rice Jr., the championship looks to be up for grabs, and not only due to the Final Four’s knockout format.
Holon, Maccabi and Jerusalem entered Thursday night’s action tied with 19 wins and 10 defeats so far this season, with surprise package Maccabi Ashdod just one game back, with 18 victories and 11 losses.
Each team will have three more regular season games to play after this weekend ahead of the start of the best-of-five quarterfinal playoffs.
The likes of Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Eilat have also already proven this season that they can beat any team on their day, making the race to qualify for the Final Four, not to mention win the season-ending tournament, tighter than ever.
Maccabi Tel Aviv hasn’t even reached the BSL final in the past three years, and despite an encouraging start to the season, has completely capitulated since losing to Holon in the cup final almost three months ago.
The yellow-and-blue has won just six of its past 20 games overall competitions, including six losses of its last 10 BSL contests. Croatian coach Neven Spahija has been lucky not to lose his job and he completely lost his cool following Monday’s 74-69 setback in Eilat.
“I don’t think it’s about the last minute, it’s about their fight,” said Spahija, calling out his players. “We weren’t comfortable and waited to see how the game will end and [thought] that we will be winners just from walking on the court and not fighting on the court. We had three offensive rebounds and they had 14 or 15, and the 18 turnovers were not a result of any special pressure but only simple traps which is easy to resolve with a simple pass, but our focus was terrible.
“It’s not about analyzing the game, as it has happened to us so many times all year and we don’t learn from these mistakes. It’s the DNA of this group,” he added. “But we’re going to get back and work hard. For me, it’s a shame, and this is the first time I use this word as a coach of Maccabi. We really need to apologize to the Maccabi franchise and fans, because this is a way to nowhere.”