There’s no question that Hapoel Jerusalem seems hung over and is having some trouble coming back down to earth from the Basketball Champions League Final Four in Malaga.
It was clear in the Reds’ Game 1 win of the Winner League quarterfinal series against Bnei Herzliya in the capital and it was even more crystallized in their 75-64 loss in Game 2 at the HaYovel Arena to knot the best-of-five series up at 1-1.
Lack of intensity, lack of focus and lack of clarity was at the forefront for Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad, including some indecisiveness as to who was going to stand on the sidelines for the game after the bench boss had been ill over the last few days.
No one for Jerusalem played well and stepped up in this game and that has to be concerning for the entire club from player 1 to 12 as well as management and the coaching staff.
What has worked so well for the Reds all season long has been the understanding as to what each and everyone’s task is, and that has begun to unravel.
Does that mean Jerusalem will lose this series to Oren Aharoni’s very short squad? That’s still difficult to see happening as Hapoel’s depth is far, far superior to that of Herzliya, but in sports you never know.
Herzliya is giving Jerusalem a fight for its life and that will continue into Game 3 without a doubt back at the Arena.With only seven players in the rotation, Herzliya’s two remaining senior Israelis – Yair Kravetz and Oded Brandwein after Sandy Cohen had to undergo emergency surgery – had to step up after a dismal performance with only 3 paltry points and missed defensive assignments.
Step up they did as Kravetz took hold of the game right and shot a perfect 4/4 from deep for 14 points overall. Brandwein also took the bull by the horns with 10 points while also understanding his role and playing it to perfection.
However, if Herzliya wants to make more noise in Game 3 on Wednesday night and Game 4 on Saturday evening, the Israeli duo as well as the five imports will all need to play their best basketball.
The real question is: whether Hapoel Jerusalem has heard the wake-up call?
Turning the ball over more times than assists recorded, being outrebounded on the offensive glass and looking lackadaisical for bunches of minutes will not do going forward. Jerusalem must get back to the basics and the fundamentals that helped it make it all the way to the BCL final, where they fell to 77-70 Bonn.
The Reds have to get over the hangover that Zach Hankins feels is affecting their play.
“Honestly, it is, but there should be no excuses and no hangover whatsoever. It’s definitely a challenge mentally to think about two different seasons and have two different things going on at once. But one is over so it’s on us and we have to get over it, we have something to win and we did not come out to win tonight. We have to come back here again and hopefully that will be the end of it.”
Assistant coach Shai Olerarczyk spoke about Dzikic’s decision to manage the game and arrive at the 90th minute after it was originally announced that he would remain at home ill.
“We were in touch and it was his choice to come and he’s the coach. It’s his decision if he wants to coach the team, sit in the stands or stay at home. He decided to come here and help the team.”
Hankins also talked about the coach’s surprise decision to show up just before tipoff.
“I saw a report that he wasn’t coming. He has sacrificed so much for us and it’s not unexpected that he is going to sacrifice more for us even if he is feeling ill and he expects the same from us. We know what we can do and it all comes down to effort and pushing through things.”
Clarity at this point of the season is critical and so far for the opening two games of the playoffs there has been a lack of that.
Jerusalem can say that it is not the favorites until the cows come home, but everyone knows who the deeper and more talented team is on paper.
Yes on paper, but the games are played on the court and if the Reds don’t get their heads straight from top to bottom, their season may end a lot sooner than they expected.
In other news, Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to close out its series with Hapoel Beersheba on Wednesday night as well as it leads 2-0.
Should the yellow-and-blue advance, Hapoel Holon will be waiting after the Purples swept Hapoel Galil Elyon 3-0 in their series. Finally, Hapoel Tel Aviv is ahead 2-0 in its quarterfinal tilt with Ness Ziona and had a chance to punch its ticket to the semifinals late Tuesday night in Game 3 of their series.