hapoel jerusalem 298.88.
(photo credit: www.hapoel.co.il)
Hapoel Jerusalem can move to the brink of qualification for the Eurocup quarterfinals with a victory over Unics Kazan in Russia on Tuesday.
Just two weeks ago, Jerusalem seemed to be a clear underdog in Group J. However, impressive performances resulted in a stunning road win at Valencia and a home victory over Galatasaray last week, putting Guy Goodes’s men in the driving seat to finish in the group’s top two and advance to the last eight.
Kazan began the Last 16 with a road win at Galatasaray, but stumbled at home against Valencia last week and can not afford another loss on Tuesday.
“We are in high spirits after winning four games in 10 days, but we could not face a tougher game than against Kazan, especially after it lost at home,” Goodes said.
“I had the feeling that Valencia would win there. After they lost to us at home they needed a win and they got it against a great team. The group is completely open and we are facing some of the best teams in Europe in my opinion.
“Each team of the Last 16 can be part of the Top 16 of the Euroleague. Kazan is a great offensive team and it has a lot of strengths, but we will do our best to go there and win.”
Kazan’s star-studded roster includes the likes of playmaker Marko Popovic (18.4 ppg, 5.1 apg) and center Kresimir Loncar (15.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Former Maccabi Tel Aviv center Maciej Lampe (11.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) has done well for the Russians since joining last month, but Goodes is far more concerned with the play of guards Popovic and Terrell Lyday (14.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
“It is clear this is going to be an extremely tough game,” Goodes said. “Kazan is better than us, the best team in the entire competition. But no one expected us to win in Valencia and we are planning to triumph again.
“We can’t afford to make any mistakes and we’ll have to try and stop the team by slowing down its guards. We need to play excellent defense and shoot well from beyond the arc. If we do that we’ll be in with a chance.”
After being ranked fifth in points allowed during the regular season (70 ppg), Kazan has conceded an average 75.5 points in the Last 16 and will need to at its best defensively against an Hapoel side which rained down 100 points on Galatasaray last week. The Russians will also need to address their three-point shooting.
Kazan was ranked fourth in the regular season by hitting 44 percent from downtown, but has made just 28.8% (15 of 52) in the two Last 16 games.
“Our main task in this game will be to cope with Hapoel’s fast offense and to create disorder in their organized defense,” Kazan coach Valdemaras Chomicius said. “It will surely not be easy for us. We realize that and are treating this game very seriously.”
With seven players averaging between 7.1 and 15.3 points per game,
Jerusalem is the second-highest scoring team in the Eurocup with an
average 85.3 points.
Uri Kukia is bottom of that seven-player list, but his defensive presence has been just as crucial to the team’s recent success.
“We are enjoying our European games at the moment but we know that we haven’t done anything yet,” he said.
“We know Kazan is capable of wining this competition. We believe that
the next two games will be crucial for us and it is not going to be