Hapoel Jerusalem forward Tony Gaffney (left) and guard Yotam Halperin (right).
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv extended its perfect start to the Eurocup Last 32 on Wednesday night to close in on progress to the next round, while Hapoel Jerusalem suffered a humbling home loss which complicates its situation.
Maccabi improved to 2-0 in Group M with a tight 87-83 win at BC Nizhny Novgorod in freezing Russia.
Jerusalem was looking to bounce back from last week’s road loss to Avtodor Saratov, but it played its worst offensive game of the season in the competition to suffer a 75-64 loss to Gran Canaria of Spain and fall to 0-2 in Group H.
Tel Aviv, which was sent to the Eurocup after being knocked out in the Euroleague regular season, managed to eke out the win despite playing with just one point guard, Taylor Rochestie.
Yogev Ohayon was out injured, Jordan Farmar left the team earlier this week and fresh signing Gal Mekel will only be available in the second half of the Last 32 when teams can register new players.
Rochestie led five Maccabi players in double-figures with 17 points, with Trevor Mbakwe finishing with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Dimitriy Khvostov had 14 points and 10 boards for Novgorod, which fell to 0-2.
“This is a very important win and we mustn’t forget that we registered it with a very short roster,” said Maccabi coach Zan Tabak. “We had several chances to finish off the game but we couldn’t do that and we will have to learn from this. We have a very short rotation at the moment, but we still achieved our goal. This is certainly a very significant win which puts us in a good position in the group.”
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Maccabi led by two points (45-43) after a tight first half and there was nothing to separate the teams (63- 63) entering the final 10 minutes.
The score was still tied (76-76) with three minutes remaining, but Sylven Landesberg’s three-pointer followed by Guy Pnini’s three-point play with 1:42 minutes to play gave Tel Aviv an 82-78 advantage it wouldn’t squander.
In Jerusalem, the hosts seemed to be a step slower than Gran Canaria from the start, but trailed by just two points (18-16) after 10 minutes. However, an 18-3 run by the Spaniards blew the game open, establishing a 17-point gap (39-22) which Hapoel never came close to erasing. Jerusalem still trailed by 17 points (46-29) at the break and the gap reached 24 points before Hapoel cut the deficit to make the loss only slightly more respectable.
Yotam Halperin and Tony Gaffney had 14 points each for Jerusalem, which connected on just 3-of-18 three-point shots. Sasu Salin scored 20 points for Gran Canaria, which shot 13-of-29 from beyond the arc.
“We didn’t get the game off to a good start and against a team like this you can’t come back from 20 points down,” said Halperin. “We had a really poor game tonight to put it mildly,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco. “We weren’t close to as aggressive as we needed to be. The better team won tonight.”
Jerusalem will look to bounce back when it hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion in BSL action on Saturday, with the latter improving to 2-1 in the Europe Cup Round of 32 on Wednesday with a 96-85 victory over Kataja of Finland.
Mark Lyons and Chris Wright scored 22 points each, with Darryl Monroe adding 21 points and nine rebounds for Rishon, which was playing for the third time in five days. Lamayn Wilson had 27 points for Kataja.
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