Ulm in Jerusalem for regular-season finale

Already in Eurocup Top 16, Hapoel focused on snapping mini-skid and securing 2nd place in group.

December 14, 2016 01:22
2 minute read.
Hapoel Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin (left) and coach Simone Pianigiani

Hapoel Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin (left) and coach Simone Pianigiani. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Ulm of Germany in its final Eurocup regular season game on Wednesday night, desperate for a win to get its roller-coaster campaign back on track.

After going almost a month without a win, losing five consecutive games over all competitions, Jerusalem seemed to be heading in the right direction when it claimed three straight victories. However, a humbling 20-point loss at Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Russia in Eurocup action last week was followed by a first home defeat in the BSL on Sunday, a 92-81 setback against Hapoel Eilat.

The pressure at the club was clear for all to see when Bar Timor and Tarence Kinsey almost came to blows during Sunday’s game, arguing on court before the former was sent to the bench.

Amar’e Stoudemire also registered yet another disappointing showing, finishing with five points and two rebounds in 13 minutes and looking very unhappy after not playing in the closing minutes.

The six-time NBA All-Star is struggling to live up to expectations so far this season, averaging 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 23 minutes per game in the Eurocup and 8.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in 24.6 minutes in the BSL.

Jerusalem already secured its qualification for the Eurocup Top 16 two weeks ago with an 81-69 victory over Olimpija Ljubljana.

But it fell to a 4-3 record in Russia last week and will battle for second place against Ulm at the Jerusalem Arena.

A win over Ulm, which thrashed Jerusalem by 26 points when they played in Germany last month, will secure second place for Hapoel.

A defeat could see it advance to the next round only from fourth position and result in a more difficult group in the Top 16, should Kuban also beat Valencia on Wednesday. A loss to Ulm combined with a Valencia win will see Jerusalem progress from third place.

Ulm suffered defeats to Valencia and Ljubljana following the win over Hapoel, but bounced back with a victory over Kuban in its most recent Eurocup contest.

“We are here with the goal of building something,” said Hapoel coach Simone Pianigiani.

“We are facing a very important week, with the game against Ulm to be followed by a cup clash at Hapoel Tel Aviv on Saturday.”

Pianigiani directed plenty of criticism toward his players following the loss to Eilat.

“The players need to play with more commitment. They need to respect the team they are playing for and have the right mentality to battle every day,” explained the Italian. “They need to remember this defeat and understand that even if they are tired they need to play with more aggressiveness.”

After an impressive start to the season, which also raised the prospect of a bidding war for his services between Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv, guard Bar Timor has experienced a dip in form over recent games.

“The game against Eilat was our worst game of the season and I have no explanation for what happened,” said Timor, who has averaged 4.5 turnovers in the team’s past two defeats.

“We have quite a few tired and injured players but that is not an excuse. We have many problems which need to be resolved and we need to start doing so before it will be too late to save our season.”

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