BBF – Blatt, Butler & Feldeine put Jerusalem in the drivers seat: Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Neptunas Klaipeda 86-74 to take the first of two games in their Champions League Round of 16 series. The Reds will take a 12 point advantage into their game at home next week as Coach Oded Katash will look to advance to the quarterfinals. James Feldeine led the way for Jerusalem with 17 points, Da’Sean Butler added 15 points and 8 rebounds, Tashawn Thomas chipped in with 14 points and Tamir Blatt recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists in the win. Tomas Delininkaitis with 16 points and Lorenzo Williams with 14 points were the top scorers for the hosts.
Thomas, Owens and Blatt couldn’t have dreamed of a better start for Jerusalem as the Reds who were wearing their black uniforms took a 23-14 lead after ten minutes. However, Neptunas charged back in the second quarter thanks to 36-year old point guard Tomas Delininkaitis as Jerusalem went into halftime up by just two points, 43-41.
Neptunas came out of the break on fire, but Jerusalem cooled them off as Butler, Feldeine and Blatt all helped out to give Oded Katash’s squad a 61-54 lead heading into the final frame. Feldeine and Butler continued to score at will as the Reds took a 86-74 advantage back to Jerusalem as the Reds will look to advance to the quarterfinals.
1) Jerusalem came out flying to start the game and set the tone early as Blatt dished out assist after assist, Josh Owens put down dunk after dunk and Thomas scored at will. Was that the plan? It certainly was said Katash, “It was important for us to start the game with the flow and good defense.” Jerusalem had some problems with their second unit and struggled to get going as the Neptunas crept back into the game and went into the second half down by only a coupe of points. “We struggled a little bit in the 2nd quarter and we played against a good team and were well coached,” Katash continued. But ultimately Jerusalem’s quality came out over the last two quarters and were able to take a 12 point lead into the home game next Wednesday at 19:45 Israel time, “We have a tough game next week and hopefully we will finish the job at home,” concluded the coach.
2) James Feldeine may have started off a bit cold but boy did he heat up as the game moved along, and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered for Jerusalem. “It was a tough game against a tough team and they played hard and were well coached,” Feldeine explained. “This was a big game and it was very important to win this game for us.” Not that he has anything to prove, but Feldeine continues to show everyone why Jerusalem wanted him and why he wanted to stay; it’s a perfect fit for both sides.
3) Tamir Blatt was superb. Blatt Jr. spent the first half playing facilitator and the second half as scorer. Not bad for the prodigy who clocked in with a double-double. The point guard ran almost a flawless game for the Reds and showed a tremendous amount of maturity under pressure. You’ve got to give him an A+ for his first Jerusalem playoff game who showed tremendous poise that of a wily veteran for the 30 minutes he was on the floor. A better and more complete game couldn’t have been asked for.
It’s unclear how long J’Covan Brown will be out after he went down in a heap and hobbled off the floor. Most probably it’s related to the injury he’s been nursing for a while. With Brown out Yogev Ohayon played more minutes and game another good performance for Jerusalem, something he’s been doing over the past few months.
On the flip side, Amare Stoudamire picked up 3 quick fouls and a technical in the first half. He was rusty as rusty can be after having not played in a month and that was to be expected. However, STAT seemed to get back into the flow of things in the second half and played some important minutes once Josh Owens had fouled out as well.
A) Demitrius Conger played over 18 minutes and scored 3 points in his Jerusalem Champions League debut. He only took two shots and played the part that Katash wanted him to play.
B) Da’Sean Butler was excellent in close to 25 minutes of action and almost clocked in with a double-double. Again just the part Katash wanted him to play and some.
C) No Bar Timor, Captain Lior Eliyahu and Alex Chubrevich tonight for Jerusalem but I’m sure they will all play some serious minutes against Maccabi on Sunday night.