Dominant Maccabi Haifa goes up 2-0 on Eilat

Hapoel Jerusalem looks to even series with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Game 2.

May 29, 2013 23:32
3 minute read.
Maccabi Haifa's Gal Mekel

Maccabi Haifa's Gal Mekel 370. (photo credit: Lilach Weis/BSL)

Maccabi Haifa moved to within a single win of the BSL playoff final on Wednesday night after claiming an emphatically impressive 105-84 victory at Hapoel Eilat to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five semifinal series.

Eilat vowed to fight back after being outplayed in an 87-75 road defeat in the series opener. However, Haifa dominated Oded Katash’s side for a second time in four days on Wednesday and will be extremely confident of closing out the series when it hosts Game 3 on Sunday.

After outscoring Eilat by 21 points (29-8) in the first quarter earlier this week, Haifa blitzed the southerners yet again in Game 2, opening the night with a 15-0 run from which the hosts never recovered.

“We played very well,” said Haifa coach Brad Greenberg. “We got a great start again. We played a good team and I’m really proud of how we played.”

However, Greenberg was adamant that the series is far from over.

“My guys know this is a very good team,” he added. “We’ve played two games and played very well, but when we tip off in three days it will be 0-0. We don’t want to come back to Eilat again. They are a very good team and they will want to keep their season going.

They are going to come at us for sure.”

Donta Smith had 21 points for Haifa, which can complete its second straight sweep with a victory on Sunday. Gal Mekel added 18 points and 13 assists, while Pat Calathes contributed 18 points and 15 rebounds.

Paul Stoll scored 17 for the Greens, who maintained a doubledigit gap throughout the night after getting off to a fast start.

Afik Nissim had 21 points for a dispirited Eilat team, which played without star Scotty Hopson, who was cut from the roster for Wednesday’s game by coach Katash.

“I don’t think that missing Hopson was our problem,” said Katash.

“We allowed 105 points at home in Game 2 of the playoff semis and that is something which shouldn’t happen regardless of who is on court. We promised ourselves that there wouldn’t be a repeat of what unfolded in Haifa, but that is exactly what happened.

“We will need to channel all our energy to Game 3 to ensure we don’t end our season like this.”

Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv in Game 2 of their semifinal series at Malha Arena on Thursday, hoping to bounce back after losing the series opener 91-73 at Nokia Arena.

Jerusalem limited Maccabi to just 38 points in the first half, but the yellow-and-blue wouldn’t be denied after the break and improved to a 22-3 record over Hapoel in the playoffs.

“We didn’t start the game very well, but that is something that can happen and I’m happy that we managed to surge ahead in the second half,” said Maccabi forward Lior Eliyahu, who led his team in Game 1 with 22 points.

“However, there’s no doubt that the game in Malha will be a completely different story and far tougher.”

Maccabi coach David Blatt doesn’t believe the series opener will affect the outcome of Game 2 in any way.

“This is the playoffs and we need to play 40 good minutes to win,” said Blatt, who has a 26-0 record in the playoffs at Maccabi. “We need to be focused and play with the right intensity. We executed our plays well in Game 1 and hopefully we can keep it up.”

Jerusalem committed 20 turnovers in Game 1 and veteran playmaker Meir Tapiro knows Hapoel will have to be far more composed to have any chance of leveling the series.

“Maccabi seized the momentum at the end of the first half after we turned over the ball three times and our lack of concentration gave them the initiative,” Tapiro said.

“You can’t afford to make mistakes against Maccabi because they always punish you.

“We need to collect ourselves ahead of Game 2. We must be strong mentally because Maccabi has plenty of experience and will be firing on all cylinders.”

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