Hapoel hopes to right the ship at home

Valencia visits Jerusalem, with Reds intent on snapping skid, securing Eurocup Top 16 berth.

November 22, 2016 21:24
2 minute read.
Hapoel Jerusalem coach Simone Pianigiani (left) and center Amar’e Stoudemire,

Hapoel Jerusalem coach Simone Pianigiani (left) and center Amar’e Stoudemire,. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

After losing four straight games across all competitions, all on the road, Hapoel Jerusalem finally returns to its home arena on Wednesday night, hoping to get back to winning ways when it hosts Valencia in Eurocup action.

Since its last game at the Jerusalem Arena, a 90-79 win over Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar three weeks ago, Hapoel has lost three times in the BSL and once in the Eurocup.

After three humbling defeats to Hapoel Holon (99-76), at Ulm in Germany (103-77) and Maccabi Ashdod (70-57), Jerusalem showed some fight against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday, but still dropped to an 85-83 loss, falling to 3-4 in the BSL on the season.

Jerome Dyson missed a chance to win the contest for Hapoel at the buzzer, ending the team’s five-game winning streak over the yellow-and-blue stretching back to last season.

Nevertheless, coach Simone Pianigiani was encouraged by his side’s performance at Yad Eliyahu Arena and is hoping it will prove to be a turning point for his team.

“We were the clear underdog, but we led for three quarters against a top Euroleague team,” said the Italian. “We had a good shot to win the game and the players tried until the last second.

The quality of our play was great and it was a great game for Israeli basketball.

“We have another top game in the middle of the week and we want to see our arena full,” added Pianigiani. “Finally we have some games at home and it is very important to start winning.

I think the game against Maccabi could mark the end of the problems we had for a few weeks.”

Despite the heavy defeat to Ulm, Jerusalem is still well placed in Eurocup Group D, owning a 3-1 record after winning its first three games, including at Valencia 81-77.

Hapoel is second in the group behind Valencia (4-1), and while it has yet to officially secure its progress to the Top 16, that is only a matter of time, with four of five teams to progress and Ljubljana bottom of the group with a 0-5 record.

Jerusalem has reached the Eurocup quarterfinals only once in the past six seasons and its chances of finally making a deep run in the competition could receive a significant boost with a win on Wednesday.

Another victory over the Spaniards would put Hapoel on the brink of clinching first place, which will likely result in a more comfortable draw and an easier route to the latter stages of the competition.

Apart from the defeat to Jerusalem, Valencia has won its four other games in the competition, doing so by an average 21.2 points per contest. Valencia beat Ulm by 26 points last week, the same margin by which Jerusalem lost in Germany.

Valencia has the best defense in the competition, allowing 67.4 points per night, almost 16 fewer than Jerusalem (83.3). The Spaniards lead the Eurocup with the fewest average turnovers (11.4 per game) and have a big advantage over Jerusalem when it comes to rebounds, 38.2 per game to 30.5.

“We had a poor couple of weeks, but we played well against Maccabi,” said Jerusalem captain Yotam Halperin. “We knew what we wanted to do and we did it well for most of the game. We can be encouraged by our play, but we need to build on this against Valencia."

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