hapoel jerusalem 88.
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Hapoel Jerusalem can take a significant step towards qualification for the Eurocup quarterfinals with an eight-point victory over Unics Kazan at Malha Arena on Tuesday night.
Even the slenderest of wins would put Hapoel in a good position to finish among the top two in Group J, but an eight-point triumph will give Guy Goodes’s men the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Russians, which could very well prove to be the determining factor in the tight battle for a quarterfinal berth.
After beginning its group games with impressive victories over Valencia and Galatasaray, Hapoel wasn’t far from causing an upset in Kazan two weeks ago before eventually dropping to a 78-71 loss.
Jerusalem suffered a surprise home defeat to Hapoel Holon in the BSL on Saturday, but Goodes is confident that will prove to be no more than an accidental blip.
“Kazan is a top team,” Goodes said. “It has high-level players in all positions. It has been shown already that there is no home advantage in this group, but we hope that our fans will contribute to the atmosphere. We need to win to maintain some chance of qualifying.
“We started well and we want to continue this way. It will be hard to beat Kazan because of the experience of their players and staff in Europe, but we will try.”
Rebounding and ball handling cost Jerusalem the game in Kazan. The Russians out-rebounded Hapoel 40-32, taking 17 offensive boards, with Jerusalem turning over the ball some 21 times.
Goodes will also have his sights set on stopping Kazan’s perimeter offense. Guards Marko Popovic and Tyrrell Lyday combined for 38 points, hitting seven of 14 three-pointers, two weeks ago.
If Hapoel has any intention of winning it will also need a better performance from four of its six American players.
Pooh Jeter, Brandon Hunter, Leo Lyons and Tre Simmons combined for just 13 points in Russia, with Kevinn Pinkney and Dijon Thompson scoring 13 points each in the loss.
“Kazan is an excellent team. You need to stop at least five players to beat them,” Thompson said. “It’s a great offensive-minded team from the top level.
“They are deadly in the way they play. We need our fans to play a big part in this game because of the energy they give us all. It will be tough, but we will try to stay with the chance of qualifying. Every player knows that each game now is a cup final and we know we need to be focused.”