“Big players come to big games and make big plays”
That’s how Oz Blayzer described Speedy Smith’s massive scoring outburst with 18 points in the second quarter to help Hapoel Jerusalem to a 20-0 run and take the lead that they wouldn’t relinquish again in their 81-70 win over Bnei Herzliya.
Sure, the Reds didn’t have a big game, they did just about enough to win against a 7-man Herzliya squad that was playing with just two Israelis after Sandy Cohen was out after having emergency surgery with a serious medical issue.
Aleksandar Dzikic returned to Israel from his mother’s funeral just in time to lead his team out onto the court after having played in last weekend’s Basketball Champions League Final Four in which they made it to the title game but fell to Bonn. He was not happy to say the least with what he saw from his squad, however, a letdown was expected just as Maccabi Tel Aviv had after their series with Monaco.
“We won, but I don’t understand how players are playing with low energy and I don’t have time for that,” Dzikic said. “I will shorten the rotation from 10 to 7, I don’t care less. Either you’re mentally ready or you’re not. There is no grey area, it’s not like we have a lot of time and the guys have to understand that.”
Blayzer spoke about how a letdown was going to be normal reaction after the two clashes in Malaga but he understood full well that had Smith not helped the hosts to a big second quarter, their goose could have been cooked.
“Speedy kept us alive, but we also can’t count on that,” the forward said.
Dzikic yanked Smith out of the game very early, just a couple of minutes into the game after he saw that the point guard was just not there. The Serbian maestro let him sit and stew a bit on the bench and when he came back in, he was a man possessed as he was able to take the team on his back for those few minutes and send Jerusalem into the lead for good.
“This was the earliest time I pulled him out by far, it was after just two minutes or so,” Dzikic said. “We were super aware that Speedy would come in like that and he was drained. Maybe people were expecting him to score another 76 points in the second half but it’s hard. They changed the defense and played Maurice Kemp on him. They changed the way they played and that gave us the chance to control what we were doing on the floor. I didn’t like the inactive in the last 6 seconds where we are generally good but the players were hesitating.”
Smith himself also spoke about his game, “I started out really poorly due to various reasons, but I am here with incredible people. We still have some great games left and we want to give it our all. My second quarter run? I really don’t care, I just want to win.”
Win they did in what was a game that could have easily gone the other way and took a 1-0 series lead with game two coming up on Sunday at the Hayovel Arena in Herzliya at 19:35.
Hapoel Holon finally look like the defending champions that they are after a tough season with plenty of ups and downs with a short squad game in and game out. But right now, just in time, Guy Goodes has got all of his players back and healthy which is good news for the club and bad news for the rest of the league.
CJ Harris looks like the CJ Harris of old but even more importantly, Shawn Dawson also looks like the Shawn Dawson that was going to be an Israeli superstar and perhaps even play in the NBA until injuries derailed his career.
However, those injuries look to be far, far behind him over the past few months.
With 27 points and 9 rebounds in a game two 96-88 win over Hapoel Galil Elyon on the road, Dawson is putting himself in a terrific spot for not only himself but for his team. If the swingman can continue playing the way he has been recently then the sky’s the limit as the saying goes.
“This was one of my best games of my career,” Dawson said after the win. “It was very important for us to come in here after a tough ride and meet our goal which is to not have to come back. The job isn’t done but I am happy that we are close. We started to defend properly in the second quarter and then we came out very strong to start out the second half.”
Goodes wasn’t surprised with Dawson’s performance, “He has been playing well for quite some time, so his performance doesn’t surprise me. He is in good shape, the guys have embraced him and he is feeling very comfortable. He plays both sides of the court, offense and defense and we all know his potential.”