Hapoel Jerusalem can not afford to lose to KK Zadar at the Malha Arena on Tuesday evening if it has any intention of progressing past the group stage of the Eurocup.
Jerusalem and Zadar have split their first two Group C games, and with Aris Thessaloniki holding a 2-0 record, thanks to its victories against Zadar on the road and over Hapoel at home, it is looking extremely likely that the Israelis and the Croats will be battling it out for the second ticket to the last 16.
"This is a super important game for us," Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes said. "We are treating it like a cup final. I have no doubt that we will be fighting for qualification from this group with Zadar and Aris. We need to win this game, preferably by a significant margin. Zadar is an excellent offensive team, but we believe in ourselves, especially when we've got the fans behind us."
Hapoel defeated BC Siauliai in its group opener two weeks ago and came tantalizingly close to winning in Thessaloniki last week before losing 81-77.
Zadar suffered a 73-68 loss to Aris at home in its first group game before bouncing back with a 95-91 victory on the road over Siauliai.
"We play smart basketball and have a patient offense, but we will only have a chance to beat Hapoel if we play defense at a very good level," Zadar coach Zmagoslav Sagadin said.
Sagadin has built his roster around young talented Croats, and like many Croatian sides his team is lethal from beyond the arc, scoring 23 of 46 from three-point range in its first two games.
The Eastern Europeans made it to the Eurocup Final Eight last season where it lost to Bilbao.
"Zadar is a very smart team," Goodes said. "They play typical Croatian basketball, driving to the basket before passing out the ball to their three-point shooters. Zadar is a different team than Aris. Thessaloniki has more power and mass under the baskets, but Zadar has better shooters. It will be a difficult game, but we like our chances."
Netanya holds off Rishon
Barak Netanya moved up to third in the BSL standings with a 94-87 victory at Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Monday evening to close out the seventh round of games.
Marco Killingsworth top-scored for the visitors with 26 points and nine rebounds in 38 minutes. Netanya visits second-placed Gilboa/Galil next weekend.
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