Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Maccabi Ashdod 92-82 at the PAIS Arena thanks to a stellar effort by up and coming point guard Tamir Blatt. The son of former Maccabi Tel Aviv, Cleveland Cavaliers and current Olympiacos Coach David Blatt was a dominant force throughout the 40 minutes with 16 points and 8 assists for an efficiency rating of 23. In addition to Blatt, Bar Timor clocked in 14 points, Tashawn Thomas recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Josh Owens scored 12 points and grabbed 9 boards. Mark Tollefsen scored 28 points and Nimrod Levi chipped in with 17 points in the loss.
Levi helped Ashdod jump out to a 14-12 lead midway through the first quarter as Tollefsen made sure to keep the advantage at 18-15 by the end of the frame which saw Amare Stoudemire play his first minutes as an Israeli citizen in the domestic league this season. Timor began to hit his shots from the outside while Thomas worked on the inside as Jerusalem took a 34-25 lead with 4:51 remaining in the half. Blatt and Feldeine added points before the break as the Reds took a 48-37 lead after twenty minutes.
Stoll began to break down the Jerusalem defense and cut the lead to 53-47 but Blatt and Owens quickly increased the advantage to 66-54 with 3:19 left in the third quarter. Eliyahu added a pair of buckets and Thomas punctuated the quarter with a dunk to give Jerusalem a 72-59 lead going into the final frame.
Just as Ashdod seemed to be getting on track at the start of the 4th quarter, Stoll was ejected after he was issued a foul followed by a technical. However, Tollefsen kept the visitor’s in the game as they brought the Jerusalem lead down to seven points, 82-75 with 3:50 remaining in the contest. But Thomas once again came up big in the final minutes as Jerusalem wrapped up the 92-82 win.
1) Jerusalem was never really able to put away Ashdod as Brad Greenberg’s squad kept coming back again and again and again throughout the contest. Josh Owens was well aware that the Reds could have perhaps finished off the game much earlier had they out the pedal to the metal from the get go, “We’re not satisfied with how we started the game. We have to start out more aggressive, execute and play better defense. We have a lot of room to to improve.” The center also spoke about how the team sometimes makes things harder for themselves than they should be, “There are times when we make the game more difficult for ourselves. If we stayed locked in for 40 minutes we would be a lot happier as to how the overall game would be rather than letting them back in the game instead of finishing it off.”
2) Oded Katash was also unsatisfied with his side’s performance and was even yelling at his team numerous times throughout the game in order for them to pick up the pace. “You can’t take much from this game for Wednesday’s game other than getting some of the players in better shape. Ashdod was able to play tight and I thought we would have some more minutes when we would play smarter. I didn’t like the focus of the players.”
3) Ashdod coach Brad Greenberg was certainly unhappy with how Paul Stoll reacted in the 4th quarter when he received a technical foul and was ejected from the game. Without Stoll Ashdod would have almost no chance to defeat Jerusalem, “He’s got to realize that he’s got to keep himself in the game and not lose self control. He knows it. Knowing something intellectually is different than changing behavior. He’s got to be focused on changing his behavior. We have to have the option of having him on the court. We played well with a lineup we haven’t played a lot with with Spencer handling the ball, but Paul’s got to play with smarts and not just with passion.”
Katash knows that he will need all hands on deck on Wednesday night when Jerusalem faces Tenerife in the Champions League quarterfinals. He is well aware that his team needs to shape up quickly or else they will ship out. “We aren’t in the best shape and we looked at the Holon game as the low point and we made a restart. We are playing one of the best teams who are certainly a favorite.” Jerusalem needs to come out flying on Wednesday and can’t let for a minute because if they do they will be in deep trouble especially when the series is a two game accumulated score with the second contest at Tenerife.