Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Jeremy Pargo.
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
For the first time in 10 years, Hapoel Jerusalem opened a BSL campaign with two consecutive wins on Sunday, while defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv cruised to victory over Ironi Ness Ziona in its season opener.
Jerusalem steamrolled Ironi Nahariya 99-78 on the road to build on last week’s 18-point victory at Maccabi Haifa.
Hapoel was once more head-and-shoulders above its rival on Sunday, opening the game with a 10-2 run and never looking back.
Danny Franco’s side already led by as many as 16 points (26-10) in the first period and was ahead by 18 points (53- 35) at the break, hitting 15 of its first 16 two-point shots. Jerusalem ended the game on 32-of-42 (76%) from two-point range.
The newly-promoted Nahariya, playing its first game in the top flight in four years, never even threatened to mount a comeback in the second half and Jerusalem improved to 2-0 for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign when it began the season 5-0.
“It was important for us to put on a focused display on defense ahead of our Eurocup opener,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco, with Hapoel to begin its Eurocup regular season campaign at Banvit Bandirma of Turkey on Wednesday.
“We eventually allowed a lot of points but that is only because the game was over very early. There are plenty of good things we can take from this game, but this is only the beginning of the season and we shouldn’t get carried away.”
Bracey Wright led Jerusalem with 19 points and eight rebounds, with Lior Eliyahu, Joseph Jones and Tony Gaffney scoring 13 points each.
Mark Lyons had 16 points for Nahariya.
“We are getting better and better with every day,” said Gaffney. “We have very high expectations from ourselves. It is a lot of fun to be part of this team and our chemistry is really building now.”
The games in Nahariya and Ness Ziona both began with a minute of applause in honor of Israeli basketball legend Tanhum (Tani) Cohen-Mintz who passed away on Saturday at the age of 75.
After a rough pre-season, including a 17-day tour in South and North America during which it won just one of four games, Maccabi Tel Aviv comfortably overcame Ness Ziona thanks to a dominant third quarter.
The yellow-and-blue outscored the hosts 29-14 in the third frame on the way to an 81-69 victory.
Maccabi got off to a fast start, opening an early double-digit gap (15-5) after a Brian Randle dunk. The visitors punished Ness Ziona on the fastbreak time and again, but were ahead by just eight points (39-31) at the halftime interval.
Ness Ziona scored the first points of the second half to close within six points, but after hitting just two three-pointers in the entire first half, Maccabi replied with three consecutive triples to stretch the gap to 15 points (48-33).
Another Pargo three capped a 26-7 surge to open a 25-point margin (65-40) from which Ness Ziona was never going to come back.
Randle led Maccabi with 19 points, hitting 9-of-10 field-goal attempts.
Devin Smith added 17 points, while Pargo scored 14.
Craig Smith had 19 points on his debut for Ness Ziona, which trailed by 29 points before ending the game with a 19-2 run.
“There is no such thing as an easy game,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes, whose team will open its Euroleague regular season against Limoges of France on Thursday. “There are always concerns before your first game, especially as we entered it on the back of a long tour.”