Local hoops: Mac Tel Aviv opens by downing Hap Jerusalem

The same teams, the same arena, the same league and sadly the same old result.

Maccabi Tel Aviv  298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The same teams, the same arena, the same league and sadly the same old result. The new BSL season began on Sunday night the same way last year's ended. Maccabi Tel Aviv overpowered Hapoel Jerusalem 90-73 at Nokia Arena and proved that it is still leaps and bounds ahead of even its closest opponent in Israel. Maccabi, which won last season's championship with a 30-point win over Jerusalem, opened an early, double-digit lead and even though Jerusalem did manage to get within seven points in the fourth period, the winner was never in doubt. Tel Aviv was led by Simas Jasaitis who scored 19 points, with Nikola Vujcic adding 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. The hosts' comfortable win was achieved with two of its foreign players not even playing a single minute. Rodney Buford and Noel Felix sat on the bench the entire game, with Maccabi not needing any kind of contribution from two of its more talented players. Jamie Arnold came off the bench to score 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 24 minutes of play. "This game was very important for us. There was a lot of pressure on the team," Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said after the game. "I'm very happy with our defense tonight. We really wanted to win this game. The victory is important to our fans and to our confidence." Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir, who coached his first game ever in the BSL, got 16 points and eight rebounds from Mario Austin and 14 points from Jurica Golemac. Sunday's game was a sad homecoming for Shamir, who was an assistant at Maccabi for three years before leaving over the summer to become head coach at Hapoel. "I hope good things come out of this evening. We have opened the season with two losses and we will need to address that," Shamir said after the game. "We tried to do some things that didn't work out. I hope next time we will do better and get a different result." Jasaitis got the first points of the game with a three-pointer 13 seconds in and gave Maccabi a lead it would not relinquish. Tel Aviv dictated the play and an Ed Cota turnover led to a dunk at the other end by Jasaitis that gave the hosts a quick seven-point lead (17-10). Jerusalem looked lost and Tel Aviv's advantage kept growing. A long jumper by Vujcic gave Maccabi a 25-12 lead and the first period would end with the same margin (32-19). A three-point move at the start of the second period by Cota cut the margin to nine points. However, the hosts were up by double digits soon after. An Arnold steal led to a Yotam Halperin layup at the other end and Tel Aviv was up 40-27. Sharon Shason's basket from beyond the arc gave Maccabi a 19-point lead and any hope Jerusalem had of getting back into the game was fading quickly. Meir Tapiro's jumper at the end of the second quarter cut the hosts' lead at halftime to 55-38, and Hapoel went into the break with plenty to think about. The second half was a direct continuation of the first and after five minutes, Maccabi was ahead 66-42, its biggest lead of the game. The third period ended 72-55, but a surprising 12-2 run by Hapoel midway through the fourth cut the lead to seven points (74-67) and suddenly Jerusalem was back in the game. Bynum made sure that the visitors' renewed hopes were short-lived as he sank a pair of baskets, and Maccabi re-asserted itself through the rest of the game to win by 17 points. In other BSL Matchday 1 games Sunday night, it was: Ironi Nahariya 100, Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 74; Maccabi Givat Shmuel 89, Ironi Ramat Gan 87; Maccabi Rishon Lezion 96, Elitzur Ashkelon 78. Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan will face Bnei Hasharon Monday night.