Yellow-and-blue goes up 2-0 on city rival

Hap TA’s troubles continue as Maccabi coasts by 13; other three series back in action tonight.

Ricky Hickman 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ricky Hickman 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be confident of sweeping Hapoel Tel Aviv and advancing to the BSL playoff semifinals on Thursday after claiming an 80-67 victory in Game 2 in Rishon Lezion on Sunday thanks to a 16-2 fourth-quarter run.
Hapoel fought back from a 22-point deficit in Game 1 at Nokia Arena to force a tight finish before falling 76-68.
The Reds held a slender lead in the third quarter of Game 2 on Sunday, but their short roster inevitably tired against the deep Maccabi, which raced into an unassailable double-digit gap (76-62) with a relentless surge to open a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five series.
“We knew we had to play an excellent game to win here and I think we did that,” said coach David Blatt, who improved to an amazing 24-0 record in the playoffs as Maccabi boss.
“Hapoel played well and it was tough. I think we have played with the right attitude recently after a bit of a drop in form, but there is of course still a long way to go.”
After leading Maccabi with 23 points in the series opener, Ricky Hickman continued his excellent form with 25 points on Sunday, including six three-pointers. Lior Eliyahu scored 16, with Yogev Ohayon just missing out on a triple double, ending the night with nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Anthony Goods had 24 points for Hapoel, which understands that it will have a difficult time avoiding a sweep when it visits Nokia Arena on Thursday.
“We are realistic, but we will still give our all at Nokia,” said Hapoel coach Erez Edelstein. “It is difficult to beat Maccabi twice in a season. They are more experienced than us and were focused tonight.”
Maccabi got off to the better start, with Hickman’s three to end the first giving the yellow-and-blue a five-point margin (21-16).
A David Logan basket increased the gap to double-digits (26-16) early in the second period and Maccabi’s lead reached 12 points (34-22) soon after.
Hapoel closed to within five points, but Maccabi was still perfectly placed at the half, leading 43-32.
However, almost inevitably, the Reds mounted another brave comeback and Jonathan Skjoldebrand’s three with three minutes remaining in the frame gave Hapoel a 50-49 advantage.
Guy Pnini, who infamously called Skjoldebrand a Nazi during the first derby of the season, replied with a basket from beyond the arc to put Maccabi back in front and the visitors held a four-point margin (60-56) entering the final quarter.
A Goods basket brought the hosts back on level terms (60-60) one minute into the fourth period, but Blatt’s men scored the next eight points, with a Devin Smith triple opening a 68-60 margin with six minutes left on the clock.
Maccabi never looked back, with four straight Ohayon points opening a 14- point margin (76-62) from which Hapoel was never going to come back.
Game 2 of the three remaining quarterfinal series’ will be played on Monday.
Hapoel Jerusalem (5) will look to move into a 2-0 lead against Barak Netanya (4) at Malha Arena after snatching home-court advantage with an 87-80 win on the road.
Hapoel Eilat (2) will be desperate to get back on level terms with a road win at Maccabi Rishon Lezion (7), while Maccabi Haifa (3) takes a 1-0 lead into Game 2 at Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (6).