Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Pierre Jackson (center)..
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
After three seasons of failing to even reach the BSL final, Maccabi Tel Aviv registered a first landmark win in its quest to regain local dominance on Sunday, thrashing Hapoel Jerusalem 88-71 on the road.
Maccabi improved to an 8-0 record in league play, claiming its first BSL win at the Jerusalem Arena after five consecutive losses. Hapoel had dominated the showdowns between the teams in BSL action since March 2015, winning six of seven clashes.
But after a tight first half on Sunday ended in a one-point Jerusalem lead (47-46), Maccabi moved up a gear on the way to an emphatic victory.
Pierre Jackson led the yellow-and-blue with 18 points and 10 assists, with Deshaun Thomas adding 12 points for Maccabi, which hosts Valencia in Euroleague action on Thursday.
“This was an important game for us and the club,” said Jackson. “Obviously we want to win every game, but I was told this game is real important.”
Richard Howell had 20 points for Jerusalem, scoring them all in the first half. Hapoel connected on 17-of-23 two-point attempts in the first half, but was limited to a dismal 3-of-18 after the break.
“Maccabi deserves credit for improving its defense after the break and we couldn’t cope with that,” said Jerusalem coach Mody Maor, who lost for the first time after previously winning his first three games in charge.
“We lost to a very good team that played excellent basketball.”
As much as Hapoel wanted to beat Maccabi, everyone at the club was aware that its most important game this week is in Montenegro on Wednesday when it visits Buducnost in Eurocup action. Jerusalem has a 2-4 record with four regular season games to play and can move tied with Buducnost with a victory.
“Everyone understands how important Wednesday’s game is and we will take what we need to from this game and improve on Wednesday,” added Maor, whose team fell to 6-2.
Hapoel scored at will in the first half, with Maccabi’s defense in the paint allowing the hosts to net easy baskets time and again. Jerusalem connected on 17-of-23 two-point shots in the first two quarters, with Howell responsible for seven of those baskets, ending the half with 20 points.
But while Hapoel had its way on offense, it couldn’t stop the yellow-and-blue at the other end, and the hosts led by just one point (47-46) at the break.
After a tight first half in which the teams were separated by no more than four points, it became clear that the first side to impose its will on defense would have the upper hand.
That would be Maccabi, which upped its intensity and held the hosts to just 2-of-13 from two in the third quarter, outscoring Jerusalem 24-11. John DiBartolomeo’s three-pointer to end the frame opened a 12-point cushion (70-58) and Tel Aviv was never in any real danger of losing its lead.
A three-point play by Jackson took the gap to 20 points (86-66) and Maccabi made a comprehensive statement.
On Monday, Sharon Drucker will guide Hapoel Eilat (2-5) for the first time when it hosts Maccabi Haifa (2-5). Elsewhere Monday, Bnei Herzliya (2-5) hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (3-4) and Ironi Nahariya (4-3) welcomes Maccabi Ashdod (2-5).