As the fourth quarter began in Hapoel Jerusalem’s 79-73 loss to Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion in the Balkan League it was as if the Reds pressed the rewind button and went back to their last game, a devastating loss to Turk Telekom in the Basketball Champions League. The intensity level dropped from 100 to -10, Jerusalem couldn’t find the basket if their lives depended on it as they didn’t score during the first five minutes of the frame and Rishon rattled off a 12-0 run to begin the period fairly easily without one bit of fight. Zero, zip, nada, nothing. It was as if they didn’t want to win the game. Even the ever boisterous owner Eyal Homsky was fairly quiet throughout the 40 minutes and there was barely a peep out of him during the final ten minutes.
“It’s hard to explain what happened in the fourth quarter,” said winning coach Guy Goodes. When asked if he thought Jerusalem just didn’t want to win, Goodes wouldn’t hear anything of it, “Jerusalem wanted to win and basketball is a game of momentum. In the fourth quarter we had that. They had it in the first half but we were much more focused, provided intensity in the fourth and pace that we just didn’t have earlier. Jerusalem was four levels above us. We made our adjustments and came away with the win.” Jerusalem’s new coach Dainius Adomaitis also brushed off the idea that the Balkan League wasn’t a competition that the club wanted to focus on, “We play every game to win. It can’t be that important or not important. When you step on the court you have to have the right mentality from the beginning to win the game. We have to analyze the fourth quarter.”
Reds captain J’Covan Brown looked at what he believes is the issue with the team as the game heads into crunch time, “We’re not playing with fire and we start the games great and when we close the game we play s——y That’s been the case the last couple of games.” Brown continued his thoughts, “When you’re not hitting shots at the end of the game you’ve got to find that dog, you’re not going to make it easy. Start with me, Tashawn (Thomas) and Su (Braimoh) and if you can’t do it then you just cant play.” Lastly, Akil Mitchell who starred in the comeback said this, “I didn’t realize that we were back in the game until 4-5 mins left. We had a chance to win it and we showed some character. I was just lost in the game we’ve been off for so long so we don’t really have a rhythm. We were hitting shots and knocking down free throws. It’s more about rolling into the next game.”
Falling Apart From Up Close
Adomaitis saw how Jerusalem feel apart last week from the stands and this time he got to see it up close and personal from the sidelines as he witnessed his team’s lead evaporate into thin air. “One quarter decided the game and I don’t like that because you have to play your best basketball in the fourth quarter. Our energy went down, we had foul trouble and rotation trouble. Our shots weren’t going in and our decisions on offense weren’t good. Rishon scored 29 points in the last quarter and every minute our energy one defense was going down.” The Lithuanian bench boss said that in order to avoid such issues in the future it all comes down to practice, “We need to practice and I believe in hard work. If you practice, your physical condition will be good in these moments. Even if you have to play 30 minutes you will be in good shape and make good decisions and play good defense in the 4th quarter.” J’Covan Brown didn’t feel that having a new coach come in affected the team in any way, “I don’t think it affected us and we knew we were getting a new coach before last game. It’s a new start for us and we were with coach Katash for 2.5 years. It hurt us, but we were happy for him. Now it’s just a new journey, accept it with open arms and do what he wants us to do. It’s not like anything really changed with the offense, it’s still the same and we showed some new things on defense. But it comes down to the last four minutes, we can’t get stops.”
Revenge Time for Rishon
For Guy Goodes, a rematch with Hapoel Gilboa Galil awaits on Wednesday as Rishon will look to avenge a league loss from just a couple of weeks ago. The wine city squad will also face Jerusalem in a little bit less than a month in the State Cup semifinals as they will want to knock out the defending Cup holders just as they did in the Israeli League Final Four. But first is the Galilee squad which also features a new coach in Avishay Gordon, “Everyone I seem to face has a new coach it seems. We played recently at home and they beat us. We want to use that game to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead as we have only practiced recently and haven’t played many games. This will give the players a chance to get back into the swing of things as there have been many breaks in the season due to the situation. As for meeting Jerusalem, you can’t save wins in basketball and we have played many knockout games against each other and money time will be in the State Cup semifinal.” As for Akil Mitchell, he will be playing his former club and wants to the the victory in order to get to the next stage of the Balkan League, “I know those guys and I know they are going to play hard. It’s about staying on the court and playing good basketball, they got a win in our place, one I don’t think they should have gotten. I’ll be locked in for that one.”