maccabi tel aviv cska.
(photo credit: )
Fresh off Thursday's decisive 71-54 Euroleague win over CSKA Moscow at Nokia Arena, Maccabi Tel Aviv heads off to Rishon Lezion on a high on Sunday, to take on Effi Birenboim's winless squad.
Maccabi's Israeli players have been left on the sidelines for much of the team's European games so far this season, and Guy Pnini said Saturday that he hopes the home-grown players will start getting more minutes in Europe as well as in the BSL where league rules ensure two Israeli players are on court at all times.
"It is important for us to win and continue the momentum from the Moscow game," said Pnini.
"I don't think the Israeli players are trying to prove something in the minutes they are getting in the league because the coach knows how good each of the players are and what they can give.
"There is no doubt we want to play more, but at the end of the day it is the coach's decision and we accept that. Personally I hope to get more minutes," added Pnini, who played six minutes against CSKA.
Tel Aviv has been somewhat careless with the ball in the league, coughing up 31 turnovers in two games, but its stellar shooting has made up for it: 56 percent from two and 38% from three.
The yellow-and-blue's balanced scoring - six players average over nine points per game - will also make life difficult for Rishon.
Point guard Avi Ben-Chimol will lead the hosts with his skillful drives to the basket, but Tel Aviv's height - found chiefly in D'or Fischer and Maciej Lampe - will limit his options. Rishon will need big nights from guards Larry O'Bannon and Meir Tapiro to take down Tel Aviv, even with the Moni Fanan scandal swirling around the club.
Also Sunday, the top two teams in the Basketball Super League going into this weekend's games square off, as Barak Netanya hosts Hapoel Afula at Yeshurun at 7:40.
Netanya's Marco Killingsworth, a power forward in his first year in the BSL, leads the league in efficiency rating after two games at 28.5, and is second in scoring 24.5 per game.
Afula will counter with shooting guard Justin Dentmon, currently second in the league in scoring at 21.5 points per game.
Whichever of those two manages to take the game over, will likely see his team come out on top.
Meanwhile, Ironi Ashkelon visits Bnei Hasharon in Herzliya in a matchup between two teams with 1-1 records.
Bnei Hasharon's fate lies in its ability to hit the three, as Dan Shamir's boys have attempted more threes (58) than twos (57).
If Ashkelon can hammer the boards as it's done so far - especially Omer Sneed, second in the league in rebounding at 8.5 per game - and if it can limit Bnei Hasharon's long-range attempts, Ashkelon could steal a win on the road.
Ironi Nahariya and Ironi Ramat Gan's clash will be the polar opposite of the Netanya-Afula game, as the bottom two teams in the league face off in Nahariya's Ein Sarah court.
Both teams have lost their games in similar fashions: they each turn the ball over far too much, especially for the rate at which they are shooting - Nahariya has shot an unspeakably bad 38% from two-point range, while Ramat Gan has shot an equally abysmal 25% from three-point range.
Each squad is being kept afloat by a single player: shooting forward Or Eytan for Naharyia, and point guard Brandon Ewing for Ramat Gan. But regardless of the outcome of this matchup, both teams will have to work harder to make their way up the table.
Monday night's lone matchup features two teams that are surely disappointed in themselves, as Hapoel Jerusalem visits Hapoel Holon.
Jerusalem is coming off a stunning overtime defeat at the hands of Jeremy Pargo and Gilboa/Galil last week at home, while Holon has stumbled to an 0-2 start.
The hosts are anchored by center John Thomas, who has registered a double-double in both games so far. Jerusalem power forward Kevin Pinkney will have to enforce his will against Thomas, if Guy Goodes's squad is to have any chance.
The winner of this game will help convince its fans that its recent hardships were flukes, while the loser will have a difficult time righting the ship early in the season.