Hapoel Jerusalem will have to defeat BC Donetsk at Malha Arena by at least 10 points to remain alive in the Eurocup.
By ALLON SINAI
Hapoel Jerusalem will have to defeat BC Donetsk at Malha Arena by at least 10 points to remain alive in the Eurocup on Tuesday night and it will have to do so without Yuval Naimi, who has been ruled out for around a month with a knee injury.Jerusalem saw its four-game winning streak in the BSL snapped by a 70-65 defeat at Hapoel Holon on Sunday, but far more importantly, it also lost its star Israeli guard to injury ahead of its final two crucial continental games.Jerusalem was completely outplayed by Group A leader BCM Gravelines in its last two Eurocup encounters and with a 1-3 record is on the verge of yet another early European exit.Donetsk improved to 3-1 with a win over Cibona Zagreb last week and the Ukrainians will secure their progress on Tuesday and send Jerusalem packing as long as they lose by less than nine points after beating the Israelis 80-71 when the teams met in their group opener.The only way Hapoel can still advance to the last 16 is by beating Donetsk by 10 points or more to hold the tiebreaker over the Ukrainians and defeat Cibona on the road next week, while also crossing its fingers that Gravelines will do it a favor and get the better of Donetsk in Ukraine.“This is a massive game,” Hapoel coach Oded Katash said. “We want to continue in the competition, so we need to win. We all know we need to win by a certain point difference, but first we have to win. Nothing is easy, Donetsk are also fighting to advance, so they are not going to give up. It’s great to be involved in games like this, but we all know it will be nerve-racking.”Besides Naimi, Dan Grunfeld is also doubtful for the game, meaning the likes of Luke Jackson will have to pick up the slack.“The last few seconds against Donetsk in the first game show you the beauty of this competition,” Jackson said.“I remember when Naimi was on the line, hitting both shots to make it a nine-point margin, I was thinking: ‘How important those two points could be’. We face a huge task. We won’t qualify even if we win by more than nine, but we need to keep our chances alive.”
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