From Maccabi’s Preseason to Jerusalem’s Super Bowl

The Rundown
Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Jerusalem Arena 74-63 thanks to an All-Star MVP performance by Amare Stoudemire who scored 24 points for the Reds. Curtis Jerrells added 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists for the winners while Bar Timor scored an admirable 11 points. Guy Pnini ended the night with 17 points and Andrew Goudelock added 13 points in the loss.

The Yellow & Blue ran out to a 17-10 lead after ten minutes thanks to an 8-0 run as Guy Pnini played lead fiddle for the visitors. With both teams having trouble from the field during the first quarter, Hapoel Jerusalem finally got back into the swing of things in the second frame. Isaac Rosefelt played 14 quality minutes and added 6 points along with a tremendous burst of energy from the bench for Stoudemire who was in foul trouble as he helped cut the lead to just three, 32-29 in favor of Maccabi.

Amare Stoudemire came out to start the third quarter and picked up his third foul, but coach Simone Pianigiani kept the big man in, which paid dividends for the capital city side who went on a 12-2 run to end the frame and take the lead by five points, 54-49. After a brutal display of basketball over the first five minutes of the final quarter, Amare was able to score at will while also causing Colton Iverson to foul out along with totally dominating a tentative Itay Segev who was just coming back from injury helping the Reds to a 74-63 victory.

1) It was a very strange shooting night for both teams. Get these stats: Tarence Kinsey, the EuroCup MVP last gameday for Jerusalem scored 0 points in 25 minutes and Yotam Halperin matched that output with zero points in almost 17 minutes. For Maccabi, Sylven Landesberg was absolutely atrocious from the field, going 0/6 from 2 and 0/1 from 3, registering 0 points for the Yellow & Blue while Victor Rudd went 0/5 and 1/3 for a grand total of 3 points. Amare Stoudemire on the other hand went 10/13 from the field to earn the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

2) Maccabi Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis has been discussing for the longest time that he hasn’t had a full team at his disposal since he’s arrived and that there are different teams that play in Europe, in the Israeli league and at practice. Truth be told he couldn’t be more correct. We’ve heard this since the Latvian’s arrival and it’s so true. With Itay Segev making his season debut for the Yellow & Blue and Quincy Miller about to come back, Bagatskis has yet a couple of more players to put into the rotation and needs to help them build up their confidence. It was clear that Segev was very careful out on the floor and Amare took full advantage of that as the true veteran that he is. With Sonny Weems and Maik Zirbes gone and probably another signing coming up from the Chinese league when their season ends, more changes are still abound. The key for Bagatskis and Maccabi will be, how fast can they get this team together and will the preseason end before the next preseason begins?

3) Amare Stoudemire discussed working his way into the Hapoel Jerusalem lineup since arriving and getting adjusted to a different system and different team. It takes time for the chemistry to develop, to understand the new surroundings and the expectations of the coaches. He also spoke about moving the ball around to all of the players. If we remember back to the first month or two of the season, Amare wasn’t the dominating factor that he is now. Defensively, he was solid but offensively there were still question marks about working him into the system. I think these questions can all be put to bed now. Number 1 is an absolute force to be reckoned with and Coach Pianigiani knows perfectly well how to use his ace in hand.

At the post game press conference, Coach Pianigiani talked about the team chemistry off of the court and said he had to apologize to the guys for having a practice tomorrow morning in preparation for the EuroCup game at Nizhny for first place in the group. He continued on by saying that it feels good when they understand the pressure and the sacrifice that they have to give for the program and how important these next two week are. Of course, the Super Bowl came up and the fact that Jerome Dyson offered to host the players to watch the game at his place, but Pianigiani wanted his players tucked in bed and ready to go for a long day. They can watch the game on the flight he said.

However, I saw one of the Hapoel players on the way out of the Arena and asked him if they were going home to sleep and were planning on missing the Super Bowl. The answer I got from him was no way, it’s off to watch the Super Bowl. The truth is, that’s where the real chemistry takes place; when the players get together away from the court and the lockerroom for some good clean fun and there’s nothing wrong with that, but everything right. At the end of the day I’m sure that Pianigiani was fine with his guys staying up a bit later than usual, having fun together away from the balls and hoops as they’ll have plenty of time to sleep on the airplane. Especially when seeing an absolute team effort and comeback by arguably the best team in NFL history. These are the true opportunities for the team to continue to meld together as one unit.

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