(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Three teams can already punch their tickets to the BSL playoff semifinals on
Thursday night as Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Jerusalem all look
to complete a 3-0 sweep in the quarterfinals.
Only a stunning upset will
deny perennial champion Maccabi Tel Aviv a place in the last four on Thursday,
with the yellow- and-blue hosting Hapoel Tel Aviv at Nokia Arena after winning
80-67 on the road on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five
Hapoel threatened not to show up for Game 3 after having its seat
allocation reduced due to its fans’ clashes with police in the series
Unsurprisingly, the Reds eventually agreed to play the game after
a compromise was reached and they will be hoping to extend their season against
all odds with a win on Thursday.
“It is never easy to lose, especially
when the fans give you such strong support,” Hapoel guard Anthony Goods wrote on
his Facebook page after Sunday’s defeat.
“I just want all our fans to
know that no one on our team will ever give up and that you deserve a win in the
next game. It isn’t over until it’s over.”
optimism, Maccabi forward Lior Eliyahu knows that the outcome of Game 3 will
depend solely on his team’s performance.
“We knew that Game 2 would be
crucial and I’m happy that we managed to survive some tough moments and claim a
win,” said Eliyahu. “It won’t be easy in Nokia, but the game depends on us and
we should beat Hapoel at home. We have got momentum on our side and if we do our
job we will be fine.”
Hapoel’s biggest problem in the series, and the
season in general, has been its offensive output. Erez Edelstein’s team averaged
a league-low 73.4 points per game in the regular season, four points fewer than
the BSL’s second worst side. The Reds have fared no better in the quarterfinals,
scoring 67 and 68 points, respectively, in the first two games of the
“We will always believe we can beat any team,” said Hapoel
center Curtis Kelly. “We will continue to give our all.”
seemed to be stuttering into the playoffs when it found itself in a seven-point
deficit late in its final regular season game against Hapoel Eilat after losing
three of its previous four contests.
However, a dramatic 9-0 run gave
Haifa a 77-75 victory over Eilat and catapulted the Greens up to second
Haifa has carried the momentum into the post-season and Brad
Greenberg’s team can wrap up its quarterfinal series against Hapoel Gilboa/Galil
on Thursday after claiming a convincing 93-81 win on the road in Game
“It is never easy to beat Gilboa on the road,” noted Greenberg. “I’m
especially pleased by the fact that we also improved on our performance from
While it is hardly surprising that Maccabi Tel Aviv and Haifa
are cruising to the semis, few experts predicted that Jerusalem would be in a
position to sweep Barak Netanya.
Jerusalem entered the series without
home-court advantage after ending a dismal regular season with a losing record
(13-14), falling in seven of its final nine encounters.
has hit top form at the right time, outplaying Netanya in the first two games of
the playoffs to take a commanding 2-0 advantage into Game 3 in Netanya on
“We had a meeting with all the players and asked ourselves if
we want to end the season with a good taste in our mouths as a united team or as
a bunch of players chasing personal stats,” explained forward Courtney Fells.
“I’m happy that the meeting served its purpose and that everyone is now seeing
the real Hapoel Jerusalem.”
The only series which is guaranteed to go at
least four games returns to Eilat for Game 3 on Thursday when the local Hapoel
hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Rishon Lezion stunned Eilat on the road in
Game 1, but Oded Katash’s men responded with a 91-63 thrashing in Rishon on
Monday and are once more firm favorites to reach the semis.