Hapoel Jerusalem’s Yotam Halperin .
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
After suffering two consecutive defeats to start its Eurocup regular season campaign, Hapoel Jerusalem simply can’t afford another loss when it hosts Partizan Belgrade on Wednesday night.
Even though it has still got eight more games to play in the regular season and four of the six teams in Group E will advance to the Last 32, a 0-3 start, including two home defeats, will leave Jerusalem with little room for error for the remainder of its continental campaign.
Jerusalem could have easily been at 2-0 after losing both its games to date in the final seconds. While the 80-76 setback in Turkey against Banvit Bandirma was not a major surprise – even though Hapoel led by 11 points at one stage - no one in Jerusalem imagined the team would drop to a 79-78 loss to Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd at the Jerusalem Arena last week. Despite leading by as many as 12 points late in the third quarter, Jerusalem capitulated in the fourth frame and allowed the unfancied visitors to eke out an important win.
Jerusalem improved to 4-0 in the BSL with an easy 87-61 victory over Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil on Sunday ahead of next week’s showdown with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
However, following its disappointing start in the Eurocup, Jerusalem can’t afford to turn its attention to the yellow- and-blue just yet.
“We want to win every game we play and so far we haven’t managed any wins in the Eurocup,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco. “We feel good and want to play better than we did last week.”
Partizan has also started its Eurocup campaign at 0-2, but unlike Jerusalem, the Serbs were crushed in their games against Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius of Lithuania and Banvit Bandirma. The perennial Serbian champion, which is playing in the Eurocup after 13 straight seasons in the Euroleague, was thrashed by 27 points at Vilnius and lost by 16 points at home to Bandirma last week.
Partizan doesn’t have any American players on its roster this season and will also be without injured forward Milan Macvan on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, Belgrade will have a size advantage and Franco believes Jerusalem will have to make an extra effort under the baskets and run at every opportunity.
“It is hard to know in which direction this group is heading,” said Franco. “For example, Vilnius won its first game by 27 points and lost its second by 20. Nothing is over yet and we need to make sure we win our home games. We have already dropped one home game and we don’t want that to happen again.”