Rivals Hapoel J'lem and Hapoel TA face off at Malha

J'lem, TA battle relentlessly for questionable honor of trying to break Maccabi TA’s stranglehold over local hoops.

Jacob Pullen 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Jacob Pullen 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv renew one of the fiercest rivalries in Israeli basketball at Malha Arena on Sunday night.
Since the start of the 1990’s, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv battled relentlessly for the questionable honor of trying to break Maccabi Tel Aviv’s stranglehold over local hoops.
They both failed to topple Maccabi, with Jerusalem finishing as runner-up to the yellow-and-blue six times between 1996 and 2007 and Hapoel Tel Aviv coming up short in the playoff finals in five attempts over the past 20 years.
Nevertheless, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv continue to see themselves as Maccabi’s only real challengers on the local scene, and they will meet in the league for the first time in six years on Sunday after the fan-owned Tel Aviv finally returned to the top flight.
“Clearly this is going to be a tough game,” said Hapoel Tel Aviv captain and former Jerusalem player Matan Naor.
“Malha is a very difficult arena to play in and Jerusalem is an excellent team. We are the clear underdog, but we will do all we can to win.”
Both Hapoel teams lost in the first weekend of the season, but while Tel Aviv dropped to an overtime defeat at home against Bnei Herzliya, Jerusalem gave Maccabi Tel Aviv a real run for its money before being edged at Nokia Arena.
While the defeat was disappointing, Jerusalem had every reason to be encouraged by its overall performance against the yellow-andblue and would have been a firm favorite against Tel Aviv even had the latter not lost American Matt Bouldin to a broken foot in the first week of the season.
Elsewhere, Maccabi Haifa opens its BSL campaign when it hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil at the renovated Romema Arena.
Haifa wasn’t in action last week, with its game against Hapoel Holon being postponed to this Wednesday, as it was in the US for a 10-day training camp during which it lost to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion hosts Hapoel Eilat in a game between two teams looking to improve to 2-0, while Maccabi Ashdod visits Holon.
On Monday, Ironi Ashkelon welcomes Maccabi Tel Aviv and Herzliya faces Barak Netanya.