Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Yogev Ohayon.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem still need one more win to secure their progress to the BSL final, but everybody seems to already be preparing for the expected home-and-away showdown between the two powerhouses of local hoops.
The last time the two teams met in the league final was eight years ago, which was also the last time Jerusalem made the final.
Maccabi has appeared in every title decider since, winning four championships.
Maccabi can advance to its 21st straight league final by completing a 3-0 sweep over Hapoel Eilat on Wednesday night at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Jerusalem can claim a 3-0 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion when it hosts Game 3 on Thursday.
Maccabi coach Guy Goodes was in attendance for Game 2 between Jerusalem and Rishon on Monday, with Hapoel eking out a 76-75 win.
Jerusalem cruised for the first three periods, but allowed Rishon back into the game in the final minutes and was fortunate to hold on until the final buzzer after Rishon’s Isaiah Swann missed a layup in the closing seconds.
“I’m happy we won because what happened to us in the final quarter was out of character,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco.
“At least this will ensure we will be focused for Game 3 and that is a good thing.”
The BSL announced last week that should both Maccabi and Jerusalem complete sweeps this week, the first leg of the final will take place next Wednesday, June 17.
As the No. 2 seed, Jerusalem will host the first game, with the return leg to be held at No. 1 seed Maccabi five days later.
If either of the semis goes to a fourth game, the first leg of the final will be played on June 22 as originally scheduled, with the second encounter to be contested three days later.
After initially not speaking out against the decision, Maccabi approached the BSL on Tuesday requesting that the final not be moved forward.
The league said it will not comment on the matter until the semifinals are complete.
A five-day postponement is expected to work in Maccabi’s favor, with the yellow-and-blue sweating over the fitness of star forward Devin Smith, who was ruled out for at least 10 days last Thursday with a thigh injury.
Maccabi’s request is ironic when considering the constant complaints of its guard Jeremy Pargo regarding the extended rest periods between series’.
Following the end of the regular season, Pargo voiced his frustration on Twitter, writing: “Great win @MaccabiElectra now let’s wait 12 pointless days til the next game!” It was not the first time Pargo criticized the BSL’s scheduling on Twitter, with the league threatening to punish him earlier last month after he complained about his team having to play four games in eight days to end the regular season.
Pargo took to Twitter once more on Tuesday and made clear that he does not support his team’s request.“I stand by what I said!,” he wrote. “It’s ENTIRELY too much time between games!”