Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion continued their fine play under coach Guy Goodes to defeat Jerusalem 77-72. In a back and forth game, Cameron Long scored a pair of buckets in crunch time to help the hosts to the victory. Long led Rishon with 17 points and Alex Hamilton added 16 points in the win while Bar Timor scored 13 points and Josh Owens chipped in with 11 points for Jerusalem. Oded Katash’s squad had a rough shooting night going 8/38 from three and 27/81 from the field.
Jerusalem opened the game well taking a 7-2 lead thanks to James Feldeine, but Rishon came back to take a 19-17 lead by the end of the quarter. Adam Ariel helped the hosts go up 32-26 forcing Oded Katash to take a timeout allowing the Reds to regain the lead as Timor hit a pair of three pointers, but Rishon went into halftime holding the upper hand 42-41.
The third quarter was again a close and intense period but Rishon headed into the final frame ahead 61-59 as Hamilton dropped 8 points for Guy Goodes’s squad. J’Covan Brown hit a huge triple to give Jerusalem a 67-65 advantage in the 4th quarter, but Cameron Long scored a pair of buckets to take a 73-72 lead with 48 seconds left as the host’s never looked back to record the victory.
1) Was it Jerusalem’s poor shooting or Rishon’s good defense? According to an irritated Reds coach Oded Katash it was definitely his team’s poor shooting night and not being able to get into a proper offensive rhythm, “This is the first time I believe we lost the game because of our offense. We played well enough defensively to win the game. But there are days when the ball just doesn’t go in. Missing shots isn’t my main concern but we weren’t focused enough on offense and there were many offensive sets that we wasted. We didn’t pass the ball well enough and we didn’t use our main weapon of moving the ball around to the players. It was also the quality of shots we took. The players. We didn’t play our best basketball. There are some good days and some not so good but I feel that we lost the game because of how we played on offense.” Josh Owens also chimed in on the matter, “We weren’t playing with pace and rhythm and we took a lot of shots out of rhythm that led to rebounds and they were great in transition. We didn’t play our game offensively, but we did the job defensively.” I made Owens delve a bit deeper and he said, “I think it’s all things we can control. Although we did miss some open shots, that’s all us. We know how to execute and we just didn’t execute well today.
2) Well according to Guy Goodes Jerusalem’s shooting struggles was all due to the Rishon defense, “It was our defense. One of the keys we spoke about was keeping them under 90 points. If you let them play their game they will score and dunk on you and do what they want. We have a team that can play defense well and we were aggressive on the pick and rolls. They shot 38 three pointers and most didn’t go in but we also had a rough time. Our defense won the game and a few quality defensive stops made the difference today.” So where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in the middle. When you miss so many shots which Jerusalem did going 8/38 from beyond the arc alone, some credit has to be given to the defense and no credit was handed out by either Katash or Owens which I found to be disappointing. The Reds had 21 more shots than Rishon from the field which is a boatload of attempts and yes you can have a bad shooting night but when you are taken out of rhythm that has got to credited as well to the other team for doing their job.
3) Something I had observed early on was that Jerusalem barely moved the ball inside on set offensive pieces and I mentioned it to one of the other journalists from the get go. As the contest moved along nothing changed until Chubrevich was in the game and he was also a catalyst when Jerusalem took the lead in the 4th quarter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being critical of Owens who went 5/5 and Thomas, both of whom are superb ball players, it’s just not their strong point going up against bigger, stronger and more aggressive big men than them. When they played against teams without the likes of Deshawn Stephens, Itay Segev and Diamon Simpson they are much more dominant in the paint. But even Maccabi had huge size problems against Rishon in the Cup while Jerusalem had huge problems against Maccabi with Owens and Thomas scoring just a combined 6 points. I asked Katash about the inside issue, “We didn’t have the right pace and the correct situations. When players aren’t in the right situation then weird things happen and they miss their shots. We have made corrections at halftime in the past but today we couldn’t. We have a lot to learn from this game.” Owens as well spoke about the inside, “I don’t think that there is anything about being afraid to drive the ball. But we were out of rhythm and when that happens you have to try to force stuff and then that leads to some more bad shots and it leads to a rabbit hole as you go further along in the game. “ Bottom line is that it’s something to keep an eye on down the road.
Alex Hamilton has been a blast to watch in Israel so far. He’s exciting, energetic and just fun to see play. I asked him about joining Rishon, “We got a coach and guys on the team have made the transition easy for me. They told me to go, so when you have confidence and people like that behind you it makes it easy.”
Hamilton also spoke about playing hard and how to prepare for the other teams in the league, “We can’t worry about other teams and we have to come out and play Maccabi Rishon basketball and that‘s what we try to do, come out and play hard.”
He also discussed the differences between the Lithuanian and Israeli league, “I feel like this more fits my style of basketball. In Lithuania it was slower and here it’s a much faster paced game. Anytime I can get in transition and even get the ball to my teammates where we have good shooters around us they can put it in the basket.”