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(photo credit: BSL)
The contrasting manner of play between Hapoel Jerusalem and Alba Berlin will be decisive to the outcome of Wednesday night’s Eurocup quarterfinal first leg at Malha Arena.
While Hapoel looks to run the ball at every chance, especially at home, Berlin is far happier with a slower game, focusing on defense.
Jerusalem has averaged 84.2 points in its 12 continental games to date, winning eight of them. Berlin, on the other hand, has averaged 73.5 points and is the second-lowest scoring team to reach the quarterfinals.
With the return leg to be played in Germany next Wednesday, Hapoel coach Guy Goodes will be aiming to have his team dictate a fast pace to the game, and with the help of Jerusalem’s fervent supporters open a significant lead.
“If Kazan’s experienced players said that our fans got into their head then the crowd clearly has a role to play,” Goodes said. “We are very lucky to have reached this stage in the competition and we will try and record a good result ahead of the return leg in Berlin.”
Hapoel has struggled recently for form at Malha, dropping two straight BSL games before thrashing lowly Ironi Ramat Gan on Saturday. Jerusalem was also defeated in its most recent Eurocup home game, falling to Valencia.
However, Goodes is confident his team will wake up on the right side of the bed on Wednesday and rise to the occasion.
“We are facing one of the favorites to win this cup,” he said. “Alba is a massive club with great players and an excellent coach. It is an honor and a credit to play in this level against such a team.
“It is an 80-minute game now and we need to try to win the first one, it will be very hard, but we have belief in the locker room and belief in each other. It will be great history for us to go to the finals, but even if we won’t we will go down fighting.”
After finishing top of its regular season group with a 5-1 record, Alba finished first in its Last 16 group as well, claiming an impressive 68-62 victory at Joventut Badalona in its final game.
Coach Luka Pavicevic has assembled a balanced roster in which every player knows his place. Americans Julius Jenkins (15.3 ppg), Immanuel McElroy (10.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Rashad Wright (8.9 ppg, 2.8 apg) lead the team from the backcourt, with Blagota Sekulic (11.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg) of Montenegro and Adam Chubb (8.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg) the main dangers in the paint.
Former Jerusalem player Jurica Golemac is another key player for Berlin, but he did not travel to Israel because of an injury.
“I expect us to be strong enough in our head before the all-or-nothing game with Jerusalem,” said coach Pavicevic, whose team allowed the third fewest points in the Last 16 (68.2 ppg).
“Hapoel is an excellent team with excellent players, proving that by beating Kazan and Valencia. They have a very strong home court and on a given night they can score 44 points in one quarter.
“For us it will be important to control the game. It is a very difficult task, requiring us to stay very solid and sound defensively and find our way to the different looks that they give our offense.”
Pavicevic, who knows Israel well from his time as a Nahariya player in
the 1990s, was referring to Hapoel’s 44-point Eurocup record fourth
quarter outburst at Galatasaray in its final Last 16 group game.
Jerusalem simply couldn’t stop scoring in the final 10 minutes in
Turkey, and Pooh Jeter, who was one of the keys to that famous run, is
hoping for much of the same against Berlin on Wednesday night.
“Quarterfinals are a different animal. You can’t fix it in another game
if you make mistakes,” said Jeter, who scored 13 points against
Galatasaray and is the team’s third highest scorer overall with 12.5
points per game.
“You need to play perfect to beat Alba. You need to be on top of your
game for that. They will be on top of their game and they have the
experience. They know each other very well and they have a lot of
experience in the top level. We need to do the impossible. We will ask
our fans to help us achieve the impossible.”