Hapoel Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem looks to avoid making history of the wrong kind when it hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv in Game 5 of their BSL quarterfinal series on Wednesday, while Maccabi Haifa has its sights set on joining an exclusive list when it welcomes Maccabi Rishon Lezion in their decisive showdown.
A No. 1 seed has never been toppled by a No. 8 in BSL playoff history, and reigning champion Jerusalem is determined not to become the first on Wednesday.
Jerusalem survived a 46-point performance by Nate Robinson in Game 1, only to fall in Game 2 on the road after erasing an 18-point deficit in the final six minutes. Danny Franco’s team bounced back with a comprehensive 90-73 win at home in Game 3, but failed to close out the series at the Drive-In Arena on Sunday, with Robinson scoring 25 points to give Tel Aviv a 93-84 triumph.
Jerusalem has won 11 straight home games in BSL action, a streak stretching back more than four months. It has lost at home in league play just once in 19 games all season, with Haifa the last and only team to win at the Jerusalem Arena, claiming an 82-72 victory on January 24.
Tel Aviv faces a tall order, but coach Sharon Avrahami insists his players believe they can complete the upset on Wednesday.
“We have put aside our fatigue and injuries and we really believe that we can win this series,” said Avrahami, who has struggled with the unenviable task of reining-in the often wild Robinson.
“When we brought Nate over we knew what we were getting and you have to know how to deal with him. It is very easy to criticize him, but he is very competitive and the guys love him.”
Jerusalem captain Yotam Halperin admitted all the pressure will be on the defending champion.
“They don’t have much to lose, while we have everything to lose,” said Halperin.
“We ended the regular season in first place and fought very hard so that we would have home-court advantage in this game. We need to take advantage of that and if we will be aggressive like in Game 3 I believe we will win. If we allow 93 points again I don’t think we will win.”
Hapoel Eilat awaits the winner in the Final Four.
Haifa aims to become just the third team in BSL playoff history to fight back from a 2-0 deficit when it hosts Rishon in Game 5 on Wednesday.
The Greens tied the series at 2-2 with a 75-65 road win on Monday.
“We can’t celebrate because we have one more game to win,” said Haifa coach Rami Hadar, whose team wants to join the 2011/12 Rishon and 2014/15 Eilat as the only sides to win a series after trailing 2-0.
The winner will play Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Final Four.