katash 248 88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Galil/Gilboa coach Oded Katash knew exactly what his team needed to do if it expected to win Thursday's decisive Game 5 of its BSL quarterfinal playoff series with Hapoel Holon - it would have to lock down on defense and limit scoring opportunities for the league's top scorer, Luis Flores.
At a packed Holon arena, in front of an intimidating home crowd, the BSL's third best defense did just that - and won the game 87-80 in overtime.
Flores was held to a season-low four points on Thursday, finishing 2for-10 in field goals. In addition to his shooting problems, Flores was plagued by foul trouble and played only 28 minutes before fouling out.
Game 5 was no exception to Flores's shooting slump.
He struggled throughout the series in finding his shot with a 29 percent field goal percentage.
But aside from his Game 2 performance (five points), Flores still managed to score in other ways. There was no better example of this than in Game 3, when he finished with 18 points despite shooting below 30 percent for the third time this season.
The only other times Flores shot below 30 percent this season were in Game 1 and during the last game of the regular season against Maccabi Tel Aviv. The shooting guard would not be denied his scoring opportunities in either of those games, finishing with 15 points.
He did it by getting to the foul line. Between all three games, Flores finished 22-for-25 from the free-throw line. His ability to draw contact and make the other team pay is what made him such a dangerous player offensively.
Flores is in the league's top five for free-throw attempts per game (6.8) and his percentage at the foul line (87.4 percent). Free-throws have become such a large part of Flores's game that they make up a quarter of his total points.
If Katash and Co. were to stop Flores from putting his team in the Final Four, Galil would need a similar defensive effort that it had during Game 2.
In that game on May 3, which Galil won 63-61, not only was Flores denied the opportunity at the line with no free-throw attempts, he couldn't even get a good look all game, finishing the night with six shots.
Gilboa (13-9) couldn't stop Flores from shooting in Game 5, but it did force him to take bad percentage shots and kept him from drawing contact once again with no attempts. It was a defensive job that only good defensive teams would be capable of.
No other team could keep Flores from getting to the line, but Katash's team did it twice in the same series. Winning a basketball game is that much easier when the opposing team's best player is taken out of the game.
The defensive assignments will be much more difficult in the Final Four as Galil squares off against top-seeded Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Many of Maccabi's players would be top scorers on almost any other team, but because of the team's talent level, their true abilities are slightly diminished.
When it comes to stopping Tel Aviv, Galil will certainly focus on stopping the team's leading scorer, Arroyo. If Galil hopes to neutralize the former NBA point guard, it might want to look at Game 3 of Tel Aviv's first round series where Ironi Ashkelon held him scoreless.
Unfortunately for Ashkelon, shutting down Arroyo made no difference as Maccabi went on to win by 23 points and had five players in double-figures.
Playing against a team that can dominate even when its best player isn't performing makes teams like Tel Aviv just that much more difficult to defeat, but if the team from the North hopes to be competitive, it will have to win with its defense.