Hapoel Jerusalem fell to Novgorod at home for their first loss in the capital city during their 2015 European campaign. Last time around Novgorod ran out 92-71 winners in the first game between the two sides in Russia but it was much closer this time. The match went right down to the final seconds before Novgorod sealed the victory
The match was played in front of an electric atmosphere created by the Hapoel fans in Pais Arena. The home side suffered from some questionable refereeing decisions, each one contributing to the noise and raising the decibel levels through the roof, which only added to the frustration for Hapoel who came so close to winning the game.
More than anything Hapoel can pin the blame for this loss on Nizhny’s guard Dmitry Khvostov who put in a monster performance for the visitors. The Russian smashed home seven out of eight attempted 3-pointers with a total of 23 points and added six rebounds and five assists. Donta Smith took the same number of points for Hapoel while D’or Fischer dominated on the glass with 13 rebounds.
Nizhny raced to an early 6-0 lead at the start of the first quarter before Hapoel tied up the score at 15-15 with 1:30 left on the clock. Donta Smith had a chance to bring Hapoel even at the end of the quarter with a free throw, but one of his attempts bounced back off the rim. Dmitry Khvostov then netted a big 3-pointer right at the buzzer to finish the frame with a four point lead 22-18.
The visitors then took a 28-20 lead in the second quarter. But Hapoel started fighting back and took the lead with four minutes left in the half after an awesome 3-point shot by Donta Smith to go ahead 30-28. But Nizhny fought back as Khostov banged in a three-pointer – his 15th point of the game that helped Novgorod end the half with a 43-36 lead as Semen Antonov netted a two-pointer.
The teams came out for the third quarter and once again gifted Nizhny several points before scoring themselves. The visitors scored four before Smith took two and a foul to bring the score to 47-39. Dmitriy Khostov slammed home his sixth and seventh three pointers of the night to take a nine point lead 55-46. Tony Gaffney’s bucket helped pull Jerusalem to within four points by the end of the third quarter 57-53.
Matt Janning and Donta Smith kept Hapoel in the game chipping away at the Novgorod lead late in the game. With only 10 seconds left on the clock, E.J. Rowland had a chance to tie things up as he tried to weave through the defense but he couldn’t find the basket and the Russian side came away with the 74-70 win. The loss leaves Jerusalem’s European chances in doubt with a number of tough games ahead.
Before the match both teams sat at 2-3 in the group standings behind AEK and level with Neptunas, who both won in their sixth round games. But after the latest results Hapoel have fallen to fifth place in the group and will have to get some big wins in the matches to come if they want to qualify for the next round of play.