Hapoel Jerusalem guard Curtis Jerrells.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
After returning to winning ways in the BSL, Hapoel Jerusalem aims to also get its Eurocup campaign back on track when it hosts Olimpija Ljubljana on Wednesday night.
Jerusalem has lost two straight continental contests to fall to 3-2 in Group D, but will officially secure its place in the Top 16 with a win over the Slovenians, who claimed their first win last week to improve to 1-5.
Hapoel registered its first win in nearly a month on Sunday night, beating Maccabi Haifa 93-71 to improve to 4-4 in the BSL. Jerusalem entered the game on the back of five consecutive losses over all competitions, with its last victory coming against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Eurocup action on November 2.
Hapoel got the season off to a promising start, but two consecutive defeats in the Eurocup derailed its campaign and three straight losses in the BSL left Jerusalem under .500.
Despite the poor run of results, owner Ori Allon met with coach Simone Pianigiani following last week’s Eurocup defeat to Valencia and assured him his job is safe, telling him that he is certain the team will defeat Haifa and Ljubljana.
Pianigiani will not want to disappoint him on Wednesday, especially with the president, chairman, and CEO of the Euroleague Jordi Bertomeu to be Allon’s guest at the game.
With the Euroleague considering adding more teams in the coming years, going from 16 to 18 and even 20 teams, Jerusalem is keen to ensure it will be on the shortlist.
“It was a good victory,” said Pianigiani about the win over Haifa. “We played two great games against two excellent teams in Maccabi Tel Aviv and Valencia last week, but lost both. We played with the right mentality and attacked the game against Haifa. We needed the victory today for the confidence of the players. Players are not machines and this game will encourage them.”
Pianigiani can also be encouraged by the performance of Amar’e Stoudemire against Haifa, with the center finishing with season-highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“This win was very important for us,” said the six-time NBA All-Star. “We had to come out with tenacity after losing five straight games. We are starting to come along more and more offensively and that is helping me as well.”
Jerusalem is still considering making further changes to its roster, with Israeli guard Moran Rot training with the team in recent days.
Hapoel signed Dijon Thompson two weeks ago and Pianigiani is pushing to make further changes to the roster, with the Italian eager to replace Rafi Menco, who has joined Hapoel Eilat on loan, and Isaac Rosefelt who has seen little playing time to date.
Curtis Jerrells leads Hapoel in the Eurocup with 18.2 points per game, fifth best in the competition, with Jerome Dyson (13.6) and Tarence Kinsey (13.0) next on the list.
Jerusalem holds a big advantage over Ljubljana in threepoint accuracy (39.8% to 32.1%) and will be confident of claiming a win despite the fact that Olimpija is holding opponents to fewer points (80.7) than Hapoel (83.8).