Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 90-72 thanks to a 15-0 in the fourth quarter to record their second league win in a row to open the season. Tel Aviv kept the game close throughout the first 32 minutes of the contest, but MVP Nimrod Levi proved to be unstoppable especially in the final frame to give the Capital City Reds the victory ahead of their first Champions League clash in Turkey at Bandirma on Wednesday night.
Tamir Blatt scored 16 points thanks to five triples while Nimrod Levi, Suleiman Braimoh and J’Covan Brown each added 15 points in the win which saw Oded Katash’s squad out-rebound Tel Aviv by a whopping 45-27 advantage. Joaquin Szuchman led Ariel Beit Halachmi’s team with 14 points while Tomer Ginat chipped with 13 points and Mark Lyons scored 11 points in the defeat.
Hapoel Tel Aviv began the game with a 10-2 run which was punctuated by a monstrous slam by Demetrius Treadwell forcing Jerusalem coach Oded Katash to call timeout. However, a quartet of 3-pointers with two coming from Tamir Blatt helped the Capital City reds close the gap to 26-25 after ten minutes of action.
Both squads continued to play neck and neck into the second quarter as Malcolm Griffin carried the bulk of the scoring for their respective sides midway through the period but another Blatt triple gave Jerusalem a 40-37 lead. Treadwell scored a couple of nifty layups but Feldeine closed out the half with a dunk as Katash’s team took a 44-41 advantage after twenty minutes.
Desi Rodriguez and Yam Madar tried to to keep Tel Aviv close, but James Feldeine, Blatt and Brown kept Jerusalem ahead 61-55 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Feldeine continued his fine play in the frame as he helped Katash’s crew to a 65-58 lead after thirty minutes.
Tel Aviv pulled to within 67-64 early on in the fourth quarter, but Nimrod Levi got hot as Jerusalem started to pull away with a 15-0 run to record a 90-72 victory.
1) There’s a lot of good to take out of Jerusalem’s win as well as various different aspects from last season’s teams that make them a better and more complete team. Let’s begin with the bigs. Idan Zalmanson, Nimrod Levi and Suleiman Braimoh were magnificent just check out their lines: Zalmanson scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, dished out 5 assists and added 4 blocks and had one steal for good measure to go along with an efficiency rating of 16. Braimoh had 15 points and an efficiency rating of 11 while Levi dropped 15 points, added 8 boards, clocked in with 2 assists and finished with a 19 efficiency rating. Those there are some vicious numbers. But not only are the stats incredible, it’s the work they all did on closing off Tomer Ginat, arguably Hapoel Tel Aviv’s best player and double-double machine. Jerusalem held Ginat to get this, 2 rebounds. Last season he averaged over 7 boards a game and raised his game to close to 9 boards in the playoffs. And by the way all of this is without a pair of big men who haven’t played yet in the Israeli league, Tashawn Thomas who is coming off of an injury and Mindaugas Kupsas who for right now is only going to play in the Champions League. Quite amazing. Trent Lockett has this to say about his team’s “bigs”, “We knew Tel Aviv were going to play a lot of switching defense which we wanted to exploit and that leads to a lot of rebounding opportunities because it ends up with a lot of guards on bigs. Our bigs are super important and a lot of times they are decision makers on offense when they catch the ball in the post off a mismatch. We have a lot of good bigs and they really showed it today. Great decision makers and we played through them a lot today.”
2) It’s great to see Nimrod Levi so far this campaign both in the the preseason and now the regular season as he looks like the solid player he was under Brad Greenberg at Ashdod in his two terms with the team. He’s confident. He’s aware of his surroundings. He’s a silent killer. Plain and simple. Give him space outside and he’ll drill home that dagger three. Get him the ball inside and he certainly knows what to do with it. Plus he also led the team in rebounds as Jerusalem absolutely demolished Tel Aviv on the boards 45-27 which included 13 offensive rebounds, five of which belonged to Levi! “When we began to run and pass the ball we started to find our shots and I’m happy that I was able to be a part of the action. Our rebounding was the key in my opinion and that’s a place where Hapoel Tel Aviv is very strong.” Katash also looked at the rebounding as being a huge part of the team’s game, “One of the things we did well was to attack the boards and control the rebounds which was very significant.” The Coach also had high praise for Levi as well as Tamir Blatt as two of the game’s upcoming Israelis, “They are working at the highest of levels of professionalism which was a standard set by players like Omri Casspi, Gal Mekel and others. Tamir and Nimrod are continuing in that way and you can see that in their performance.” Don’t take what Katash said lightly. He is a man of many words but also is one of the straightest shooters in the game. If he says something you know that he means it and that’s good news for Jerusalem’s fans.
3)I knew that Idan Zalmanson was a brilliant signing when Jerusalem announced the acquisition over the summer. I’ve always loved the big man. Not only does he bring a huge presence in the paint which the Reds didn’t have last season but he also has a sweet jumper from inside the paint and knows how to control an offense. What?!? Control an offense? Yes. He is very, very intelligent with the ball and we saw that on full display against Hapoel Tel Aviv as he dished five assists to lead the team along with point guard Tamir Blatt. Hold on! Did I just write that he led the team in assists with Blatt? Yes I did and you can get your bottom dollar you’ll see more of that this season. “I think that I could have been better and could have scored more but all in all I had a decent game,” Zalmanson modestly told me following the game. And about the contest itself he said, “Our goal was to be aggressive and control the rebounds which we did a better job of during the second half.”
One of the players I admire is Tomer Ginat. He’s only 24 years old, but he plays like a grizzled veteran. He is a leader on and off of the court and can be counted on to record double digits in points and rebounds game in and game out. However, Jerusalem shut him down big time in the paint and ended up having a tough game inside. It was clear that Katash had made him a marked man and he confirmed as such after the game while also praising his national team player, “When you play Hapoel Tel Aviv, Tomer Ginat is the key player. He has an excellent rebounding game and he’s a scorer. I’m happy that he has improved and that’s good for all of us.” Zalmanson also had warm words for his Israel national team teammate, “Tomer Ginat is an excellent player and he’s a tough player to stop but we did a great job on the boards.” I also spoke to Ginat after the game and he gave his thoughts about being shut down by Jerusalem, “I don’t think my rebounding struggles were due to Jerusalem’s defense as I tried to move their bigs away from the glass but there are games like this and right now I can’t just reflect on myself but as a team we are struggling. We will practice and work harder ahead of our next game against Ashdod. It’s still very early in the season and we will come into the Ashdod game ready to go because we can’t open up the campaign with 3 losses.”
1) Jerusalem opens up their European campaign in Wednesday night in Bandirma, Turkey which is just across from Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara. The Reds know they have some unfinished business this season in Basketball Champions League play and they want to go further than they did last year when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Tenerife. Katash and GM Guy Harel retooled the team and it’s evident that areas that needed improvement were improved. Nimrod Levi spoke about the upcoming matchup, “Every win gives us more confidence and we’ll learn from our mistakes by watching the video and we’ll go into Wednesday’s Champions League game ready for battle.”
2) “Tashawn Thomas will be available for our first European game and this will be a very challenging campaign which will be as difficult as last season’s,” explained Katash in the post game press conference. That’s good news for Jerusalem. Although I’m not expecting Thomas to clock in many minutes he will be available and that positive for Reds fans going forward.
3) I’m hearing that Isaiah Cousins is raring to go and can’t wait to play in Jerusalem’s first continental clash. He’s the first guy getting to practice and is working as hard as ever to be in tip top shape. It’s never easy to be sitting for so long on the sidelines and he hasn’t played in a while, but he’s keeping upbeat and positive as he should get his first chance in Turkey to show his wares.
D) Demetrius Treadwell wasn’t too happy following his team’s second league loss in a row. You could see the frustration on his face and you could hear it in his voice. I asked him about his side’s rebounding woes, “We were switching a bit and we had a bit of a mismatch in the paint but maybe they got offensive rebounds that way I really don’t have another explanation beside that.” I saw Treadwell walking out of the arena to his car all by himself deep in thought following the game and you could feel that frustration step by step. Will Coach Ariel Beit Halachmi make additional changes? He certainly may and it will be interesting to see what his next move will be.