Gutt’s Got Game
Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion has Hapoel Jerusalem’s number in knockout games, plain and simple. It just seems every time Guy Goodes’s team faces the Reds they know how to take the win. Whether it was Adam Ariel’s incredible game winning triple last season in the League semifinals of the Final Four or the year prior to that, it doesn’t seem to matter who the personnel is, Rishon finds a way to win. This year Golan Gutt was the man of the hour, or should we say 40 minutes as the Israeli sharpshooter was able to show that he isn’t just that, he’s a player who can do plenty on the court. In the clutch Gutt scored 22 points while going 3/3 from two, 5/10 from beyond the arc as he came up big when his team needed him most, “I feel that I show up for big games and I am happy that things went well. This was definitely one of my best games and most important ones of my career. Any time you win in the State Cup semifinals it’s a big thing for your career and I am happy that I can add this to my record book, but we still have one more game to go.” Gutt in fact had a chance to win in last season’s semifinal with Nes Ziona but they came up on the short end falling to Nahariya, “I didn’t think back to that game, but it was good to close the circle. I am happy that I was able to win this game with Rishon and this will be the 4th time for the club to feature in the final. I hope that we can do it.” Akil Mitchell who was critical in the paint for Guy Goodes’s squad spork about what he saw in Gutt’s game, “Golan has nights where he can get hot and tonight was one of those nights. I was really happy to see him go off in such an important game. He’s always the X factor for us.”
Releasing The Beast
Another player who was crucial in the win was guard Isaiah Taylor who got off to an awful start. Three fouls put the Texas Longhorns product on the bench for many minutes throughout the first three quarters, but then it happened. What exactly was it? The final play of the third quarter totally changed the outlook of what could have been a game to forget for Taylor. With 7 seconds left on the clock and the sore 60-58, Taylor took the inbounded ball and allowed it to roll to almost midcoast where he finally picked it up to start the clock. He then dribbled a bit as it looked like he would shoot but then all of sudden drove into the paint right by the shocked Jerusalem defenders and ted the score up with a lay-up. 60-60 with ten minutes to go and from there on in it was all Isaiah Taylor with 13 fourth quarter points to help Rishon and coach Guy Goodes to the victory. “This is the Isaiah I want to see and he finally release the beast. He dribbled and drove to the basket, that’s the way I want him to play. It’s his first year in Europe and we have to help him be even better.” So what happened that it took Taylor so long to get going and sat on just 2 points until the end of the 3rd quarter? Akil Mitchell explained, “Isaiah found a mismatch late in the game and we wanted to exploit that. We worked on it in practice this week so we knew that as the game went on he would have the opportunity to go to work. He did just that and we were able to get the win.”
Where is Tashawn?
We’ve got to talk about Hapoel Jerusalem now. Winning for a good portion of the game, the Reds looked to have the game won and in their back pocket but Rishon was having none of that as they were able to take advantage of Dainius Adomaitis’s shaky squad that didn’t look all that confident and didn’t seem to have much of a game plan as well. One thing about Oded Katash is that he always had a game plan despite it not always going the way he wanted it to. But this game looked as if it was get the ball to Malcolm Hill and Suleiman Braimoh and let them go to work. No more big triples from Tamir Blatt (1/4) or from J’Covan Brown (1/8) or Adam Ariel (0/2, 0 points in 17 minutes) those are by the wayside. How about Tashawn Thomas once the most valuable player for the club, the same player that just a little over a month ago Oded Katash was saying he would take him to any league that he was coaching in. How is it possible that a player who was at the top of the league is now scoring only 7 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 30 minutes? Where is the Thomas that was the dominant player, upbeat and always ready to go? What in the world is going on? I asked the coach what has happened to Thomas and his response was that they need to find plays to run for him, he played a lot of minutes abs was tired. I’ve covered Jerusalem for the entire time Tashawn has been here and I don’t think tired is in his lexicon. There’s only one title left for Jerusalem this season and it’s the league. As Su Braimoh put it, “We still have something to fight for.” I am sure that he will fight for it, I just don’t know if the rest of the team is capable of that at this point.