Maccabi Tel Aviv's Yogev Ohayon 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv closed to within a single victory of advancing to its 20th
straight BSL final on Thursday night, beating Hapoel Jerusalem 74-68 at Malha
Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the playoff semifinals.
Three days after
claiming a comfortable 18-point win in the best-of-five series opener, Maccabi
dominated Hapoel once more, holding the lead throughout the night, much of the
time by double-figures.
The final score doesn’t do Tel Aviv’s performance
justice, but Maccabi won’t care one bit and will be looking to complete a second
straight sweep in the playoffs when it hosts Jerusalem in Game 3 on
Maccabi Haifa can book its place in the final a day earlier when
it welcomes Hapoel Eilat to Romema Arena.
The one-game winner-takes-all
BSL final will take place at Romema on June 13.
Lior Eliyahu had 17
points for Maccabi on Thursday, with Shawn James adding 13 points, 10 rebounds
and four blocks.
“Jerusalem is one of the most talented teams in the
league and they are not just going to die, especially at their home court so we
had to come out fighting,” said James. “Maccabi is built on championships and
that is what we are chasing.”
Samardo Samuels had 20 points for
Jerusalem, which will need to record a massive upset on Monday to extend its
Maccabi punished Jerusalem on the fast-break time and again in
the first quarter, with Ricky Hickman’s lay-up opening a nine-point gap
Hapoel’s perimeter defense was not much better, with Guy Pnini
having all the time in the world to hit a three-pointer which took the margin to
double- digits (21-11).
A Yogev Ohayon triple extended the cushion to 11
points (24-13) and Maccabi seemed comfortable enough with a 26-17 lead after 10
However, Jerusalem got right back into the game with a 10-2 run
to start the second quarter, with a Samuels basket cutting the gap to a single
But the hosts could not complete the comeback, with
Maccabi scoring nine of the next 10 points, the last three of which were netted
by Pnini to open a 37-28 advantage.
The yellow-and-blue were still in
control at the interval (39-31) and all but secured the win with 10 minutes
still to play.
A Josh Duncan triple did bring Hapoel within five points
(44-39), but Jerusalem would only score three more points to Maccabi’s 12 in the
remainder of the third quarter, with an Eliyahu basket extending the margin to
an unassailable 14 points (56-42), moving Tel Aviv within one win of the final.