Hapoel Tel Aviv demolish Hapoel Jerusalem as McRae stars to snatch home court advantage

May 31, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Tel Aviv stole home court advantage from Hapoel Jerusalem with a 86-55 victory at Pais Arena in the Holy Land Capital on Wednesday night. Prior to tipoff, Hapoel Jerusalem fans celebrated Aleksandar Džikić being awarded with the Winner League coach of the year award and Zach Hankins being named the Winner League MVP. However, that’s where the celebrations ended for the home team on this evening.

Aleksandar Dzikic – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Danny Franco’s squad came out like a house on fire to begin the game and quickly built up a 40-23 lead at halftime thanks to Jordan McRae who paced the Tel Aviv Reds over the course of the opening 20 miuntes. Things went from bad to worse for Aleksandar Dzikic’s team in the second half as Levi Randolph and Khadeen Carrington couldn’t buy a basket while Xavier Munford and J’Covan Brown joined McRae by scoring in double digits to close out the 31-point win.

Xavier Munford – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

The teams now have a break until game 2 of the best-of-three series on Saturday night. Hapoel Jerusalem will be looking to send the series back to a third game in Jerusalem, while Hapoel Tel Aviv will be looking to sweep the series and return to the Winner League finals for the first time since 2005.

Jordan McRae – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Jordan McRae (20 points, 1 rebound and 4 assists), Xavier Munford (16 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block) and J’Covan Brown (11 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists) led the scoring for Hapoel Tel Aviv, while Speedy Smith (18 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal) and Zack Hankins (10 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks) were the sole Hapoel Jerusalem players in double figures.

Danny Franco – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We have a good team,” Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Danny Franco said after the game. “The score differential does not reflect the difference between the two teams. It does show that we did good work in this game, but in a series each team has the ability to respond. Jerusalem have already beaten us at home this year, which everyone remembers. Not one point from our advantage tonight will help us in the next game, unfortunately. We need to do everything again from the start and this game is done with.”

Aleksandar Dzikic and Speedy Smith – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“Credit to Hapoel Tel Aviv – they kicked our asses,” Hapoel Jerusalem coach Aleksandar Džikić said after the game.
Hapoel Jerusalem captain, Itay Segev, expressed the same sentiments: “No excuses. This is the first time that we were broken all soon, the time was so great.”

Jordan McRae – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We just played incredibly hard,” McRae, the player of the game, said. “We know what this team is capable of, everybody knows, they’ve been killing it all year. So for us to come out and just play as hard as we did, I’m proud of us.

“Nothing, we just played hard. As long as we’re playing hard, we’re going to make some shots, we’re going to miss some shorts, that’s all a part of the game. Tonight I happened to make some shots, my teammates put me in the rights spots and we came out of it with a good win.”

Jordan McRae – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Of McRae, Franco said: “I’ll say that he had a good game and when Jordan is good he contributes to many aspects on the court, with assists, ability to rebound rebounds, beyond points, also defensively. I can speak about how fantastic his game was, but I’m sure that he will be happy – and he knows that I’ll also happy – if we win the series, because we haven’t done anything yet.”

“Watch it, admit it, try to learn from it and go out and try to win the next game. We have several days now to think about what went wrong and why,” Džikić said of putting the game behind them and focusing on the next game.

Danny Franco – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“If the points differential in the game tonight helps us going forward … statistics don’t interest me,” Franco said. “We have a game on Saturday which will start at 0-0. Of course, we don’t want to return here [for a game 3], Jerusalem is capable of causing that to happen.”

“It’s playoff time, everyone is in focus, the focus is hard,” McRae said. “As good as this win was, we haven’t done anything yet. It was a great win, we’ll celebrate it for 5-10 minutes, and then we’ll prepare for the next game.”

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