Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Nate Robinson.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Tel Aviv was forced to go back to the drawing board after dropping to a heartbreaking overtime defeat to Hapoel Jerusalem despite a stunning 46-point performance by Nate Robinson in Game 1 of their best-of-five BSL quarterfinal series.
Tel Aviv will have to find a way to level the series at the Drive-In Arena on Sunday or its season could be over by week’s end. Game 3 will be held at the Jerusalem Arena on Thursday.
The defending champion took a 1-0 lead with a 99-97 overtime victory last Thursday, with Eli Holman scoring the winning basket from an offensive rebound with 3.7 seconds remaining in the extra period.
Tel Aviv led by nine points with six minutes to play, but needed Robinson to force overtime with his layup with 3.5 second to go in regulation.
Robinson scored his 46 points in 42 minutes, hitting 8-of-12 shots from two-point range, 7-of-10 from beyond the arc and 9-of-11 from the free throw line. The three-time NBA dunk champion scored the second most points in a single game in Israeli league playoff history, with Doron Jamchi setting the record with 51 points for Maccabi Ramat Gan in 1985. Robinson also scored the most points in a regular season or playoff game since J. J. Eubanks netted a league record 101 points for Maccabi Ramat Gan against Beitar Ramat Gan in October 1994. Due to financial problems, Beitar Ramat Gan played with youth players all season long, allowing several records, including this one, to be set against them.
“This was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen,” said Hapoel captain Matan Naor, with a frustrated Robinson refusing to speak to the media after the game.
“It wasn’t enough to claim the win as we were slightly unlucky, but the game could have gone either way. We are the underdog so we need to aim for tight games like this one and finish them off. We were so close which makes it even more disappointing.”
Jerusalem, which equaled a club record with its 13th consecutive BSL win, improved to 4-0 against Tel Aviv this season, but all of those victories came by a combined 10 points. In their most recent clash at the Drive-In Arena at the start of this month, Jerusalem fought back from a 21-point deficit to claim a 93-92 victory thanks to E.J. Rowland’s three-pointer with 2.7 seconds to play. Rowland led five Jerusalem players in double figures in Game 1, scoring 19 points.
Game 2 in the remaining series will be played on Monday.
No. 2 Maccabi Tel Aviv enters its clash with No. 7 Bnei Herzliya with a 1-0 lead, No. 3 Maccabi Haifa looks to level the series when it travels to No. 6 Maccabi Rishon Lezion while No. 5 Hapoel Eilat targets a 2-0 lead when it hosts No. 4 Ironi Nahariya.