Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Nate Robinson.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Despite an injury crisis and its underwhelming performance three days ago, Hapoel Tel Aviv aims to force a decisive Game 5 against Hapoel Jerusalem in the BSL quarterfinals when it hosts the reigning champion in Game 4 on Sunday night.
Jerusalem took a 2-1 lead with a 90-73 home win in Game 3 on Thursday and will be aiming to secure its progress to the Final Four that will be played at its home arena.
Jerusalem’s 13-game winning streak was snapped by Tel Aviv in Game 2, with Raviv Limonad scoring the winning basket for the hosts with 2.1 seconds to play after Jerusalem had erased an 18-point deficit in the final six minutes. But Jerusalem dominated Game 3 from start to finish, opening the night with a 15-2 run and never losing control.
Making matters even more complicated for Tel Aviv is the fact that Limonad is a doubt for Sunday’s game after spraining his ankle late in Game 3. Hapoel is already without Daniel Aiden, who is done for the season after undergoing surgery on his knee, while Nate Robinson (knee) and Jeff Allen (groin) are also struggling with injures. After scoring 46 points in Tel Aviv’s Game 1 defeat in Jerusalem, Robinson has managed a combined 16 points in Games 2 and 3.
If necessary, Game 5 will take place in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
“We didn’t open this series the way we had hoped but we are making the adjustments we need to make and hope to build on that,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco.
The winner of the series will play Hapoel Eilat in the Final Four, with Eilat completing a 3-0 sweep of Ironi Nahariya last Thursday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which swept Bnei Herzliya, awaits the winner of the series between Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Rishon Lezion. Haifa remained alive on Friday with an 83-66 win at Romema Arena, although Rishon still leads the series 2-1. Rishon hosts Game 4 on Monday.
Haifa, which is aiming to become just the third team to fight back from a 0-2 deficit in BSL playoff history, pulled ahead with a 13-2 run to start the second period, opening a 17-point gap (42-25) which it held until the final buzzer.
John Dibartolomeo had 21 points for Haifa, with Shawn Dawson and Darryl Monroe scoring 15 points each for Rishon.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil will be back in the BSL next season, beating Elitzur Kiryat Ata 3-2 in the National League playoff finals following a 68-52 victory in Game 5 on Friday.
Gilboa/Galil returns to the BSL after just one season in the National League, being relegated in 2014/15 after 35 years in Israeli basketball’s top flight and just five seasons after winning the championship.