Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa will meet for the sixth time this season when
they face off in the BSL final at Romema Arena on Thursday night.
Aviv has won all five previous showdowns.
Nevertheless, there is a real
belief throughout the Haifa organization that their time has arrived.
fact that the championship game will be played for the first time in Haifa’s
home arena combined with the team’s competitiveness against the yellow-and-blue
in previous encounters means the Greens are in an optimistic mood ahead of
In their first meeting of the season in early October, Haifa
led by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, but a 19-4 Tel Aviv run
clinched an 86-79 win in the pre-season Winner Cup semifinals at
All three of their regular season contests were also only decided
in the final frame, including their most recent game on April 25, won 76-72 by
Haifa has also already experienced disappointment versus
Maccabi in a title-deciding final, losing 76-68 at Nokia Arena in the State Cup
final in February, capitulating once more in the closing stages of the fourth
”Someone told me that it is difficult to lose to the same team
six times in one season and I hope that will prove to be the case,” said Haifa
coach Brad Greenberg. “When you meet a team you have already lost to so many
times previously you are clearly facing a very difficult mission.
played well against Maccabi in all five of the previous showdowns, but we didn’t
do so throughout the game and that is the challenge we face on
Tel Aviv coach David Blatt is hoping that his team will
benefit on Thursday from the experience of beating Haifa.
”We have beaten
Haifa several times, but a one-game final is very different to a series,” Blatt
said. “Therefore, I’m not sure that gives us a psychological
However, we may benefit from knowing what we did to win in the
Tel Aviv and Haifa both recorded sweeps over Hapoel Tel
Aviv and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, respectively, to reach the playoff semifinals, but
the Greens only booked their place in the final on Sunday, almost a week after
While Tel Aviv beat Hapoel Jerusalem 3- 0, taking
Blatt’s record in the playoffs to 28-0, Haifa toiled against Hapoel
Greenberg’s team avoided becoming just the second team in Israeli
basketball history to squander a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series by eking out
a 71-68 win in Romema on Sunday to clinch its berth in the final.
chances of success against Maccabi are almost completely dependent on four
players. Donta Smith (20.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.1 APG in the playoffs), Pat Calathes
(16.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG), Paul Stoll (14.6 PPG) and Gal Mekel (12.1 PPG. 6.8 APG) are
all averaging over 33 minutes per game in the playoffs and Haifa will likely
need all four to be in top form to get the better of Tel Aviv.
relatively quiet regular season, Ricky Hickman and Lior Eliyahu have stepped up
their play for Tel Aviv in the post-season. The American guard leads the team in
scoring with 17.7 points per game, almost eight more than he averaged in the
regular season, while the Israeli forward has played more than any other player
on the roster in the playoffs and has improved his averages to 13.8 points and
6.8 rebounds in the post-season.
“Haifa has proven throughout the season
that it deserves to reach the final,” said Eliyahu. “We are always under
pressure in these types of games, but we have gotten accustomed to it and we
need to complete the job.”