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Anything can happen: Jerusalem forces Game 5

Hapoel Jerusalem survived to fight another day as they held off Nahariya 74-72 to force a decisive game 5 on Thursday night at the Jerusalem Arena. Curtis Jerrells (20pts) and Tarence Kinsey (19pts) starred for the Reds while Scotty Hopson (18pts) led five players in double digits for the hosts.

Jerusalem jumped out to a 20-15 lead after the 1st quarter thanks to Jerome Dyson’s 8 points as the guard picked up where he left off from last game. Jonathan Skjoldebrand scored 7 points while Scotty Hopson has 6 points for the hosts. Curtis Jerrells caught fire during quarter number two with four 3-pointers giving him a 15 point overall total after 20 minutes. Scotty Hopson and Egor Nestrenko each had 8 points in the frame to keep Nahariya in the game as the team’s went into halftime with Hapoel still holding a 5-point lead, 44-39.

Tarence Kinsey came out hitting on all cylinders in the 3rd quarter and scored 14 of Jerusalem’s 19 points in the quarter while Skjoldebrand dropped 6 to pull within 4 points at the end of 30 minutes, 63-59. Niv Berkovich and Derwin Kitchen helped the hosts to a 72-71 lead late in the game, but a pair of Amare Stoudemire free throws and one from Dyson gave Jerusalem the tight 74-72 win.

1) We had a great game up in Ein Sara, Nahariya where Jerusalem was just able to squeak out a 2-point win. The Reds knew it was do or die with a victory setting up a game 5 winner take all game on Thursday night in the capital. Nahariya may have taken the first two games, but Jerusalem has come back with a vengeance playing tough basketball and fighting for every loose ball, rebound and possession. The players and management know that anything less than an appearance in the Final Four will be considered an absolute failure. They are now 40 minutes away from the Semifinals but will still need to win at home against a team that has no quit in them.

2) Nahariya may have had 5 players in double digits which is usually enough to take a win, but off nights from Derwin Kitchen with only 2 points, Tyrone Nash with 5 points and Stu Douglass with none didn’t help coach Arik Alfasi’s cause. After the game, Alfasi complained about foul calls that went in favor of Jerusalem and set the stage by saying that the referees better be on top of things for game 5 which is always a good psychological warfare technique. The bottom line is that his team committed critical turnovers at crucial moments of the game be it on inbounds passes, after timeouts or during the run of play. When asked he said that they were under pressure and that it’s only natural that they would feel this way so close to advancing to the semifinals. In big games you have to be responsible and careful with the small details.

3) I liked that coach Simone Pianigiani began the game with the same Starting 5 from last match with Jerome Dyson and Richard Howell on the court, especially after how Dyson played in game 3. The coach’s confidence in the guard paid off as he was the featured in the first quarter, dropping 8 points and setting the tone.

Dyson spoke exclusively to the Sports Rabbi about his performance:
“It felt great. That’s what I like to do. If they don’t get back in defense then we are going to hurt them and they will have to match up differently. That way we can get easy buckets and that’s what we have been lacking, easy buckets to help us out during the game.”

Chance to start again:
“By starting I feel more connected and I get into a rhythm. If definitely feels good.”

Game 5:
“No more pressure on us. We know how we handle business at home and that’s what we have to go out and do. I know the fans will be with us 10,000% and they will be pushing us.”

Pianigiani said following the game that anything can happen in a game 5 and that there are no favorites. That certainly may be true, but the stats dictate that the team with home court advantage in a decisive game will be the winner. Of course stats sometimes lie, but it’s hard for me to believe that in a sold out Red Jerusalem Arena last season’s runner up will have a problem. However, they were runner ups last season because they couldn’t close at home losing the league championship to Rishon Le’Zion and lost the State Cup this year because they couldn’t win at home as well. All that being stated let’s go back to what the Italian coach said, there are no favorites in game 5, anything can happen.

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