“I like boxing. Sometimes you come into a a bout as the favorite and then the underdog comes and when no one is expecting it, he gives you a huge a upper cut and you fall and stumble, when you get up you have less confidence. That’s what happened here this game.”
That’s how Elad Hasin described Hapoel Haifa’s huge win over Hapoel Jerusalem. It was huge for a number of reasons. First off, the Carmel Reds played a game for the first time in a month due to the State Cup and National Team break plus an outbreak of COVID-19 among the players. To come out and perform the way they did was extraordinary.
Secondly, Haifa is playing in the top league for the first time in twenty years and teams of that nature rarely have the success that Elad Hasin’s squad has had this season. Third, to dominate and destroy Hapoel Jerusalem at home in front of 1,000 fans is absolutely shocking as to how the capital city side has fallen from the upper echelons of Israeli basketball so quickly.
Haifa came into the Jerusalem Arena ready to go with high energy and effort along with about 30 traveling fans and just beat up the hosts from beginning to end, in the way that Evander Holyfield did to Mike Tyson so many years earlier said Hasin.
“I believe that we were like Evander Holyfield when he fought Mike Tyson. His story is amazing. Holyfield always waited for the chance to fight Tyson and when he did he beat him. He worked so hard and he knew how to handle his emotions at all times. This was the first time we played in front of a crowd and we were to handle our emotions properly.”
Keenan Evans the game’s most valuable player spoke straight and to the point with a huge smile on his face, “We came and executed our game plan and played a great game. We were aggressive on offense and we all worked together, I’m very happy. Jerusalem had the fan support and tried to come back but together we were able to do it and we recorded a very important win.”
The emotions were flowing for Haifa at the end of the game when the players were feted by the fans as their voices echoed throughout the facility, drowning out the Jerusalem supporters whose their team manhandled by the recently promoted team for the second time this campaign.
Haifa’s heart and soul was crucial for Hasin’s team which was led by the likes of star guard Keenan Evans, shifty big man Lennard Freeman, wily veteran Jason Siggers and Israeli stalwarts Amit Simhon and Karam Mashour.
“I think that our heart and soul was able to overcome any challenge,” Hasin said. “We didn’t have any special practices this past month, but the passion and desire of seeing the play here working for one another is heroic. I have no words.”
“Karam is a special player and the guys really like him. He worked harder than anyone this past month and the staff said after the game that he was just amazing, but it’s not just him but everyone. Jason Siggers I have no words for what he does, Keenan Evans with his amazing shots, Lennard Freeman, Ofek Avital who had amazing energy.”
Energy was what was lacking for Dainius Adomaitis’s team as the bench boss looked miffed as to how his players juts didn’t show up to play. No effort, no desire, no toughness, nothing. And yet this was in front of 1,000 fans.
“I was very surprised at the energy. We were aggressive on the ball but not off the ball. We didn’t get offensive rebounds and we didn’t make enough fouls. There was a lack of energy and we need to be consistent defensively.” Giving up at least 22 points per quarter will do that for sure, they were consistent, consistency awful on the defensive end each quarter.
For the most part Jerusalem lacked the desire to play hard as the team committed less than 10 fouls in total going into the last quarter with the majority of the fouls being committed by Suleiman Braimoh who ended up fouling out and guard Tamir Blatt who also finished his night early with 5 fouls. Where were the other forwards? Where were the big men? Egor Nestrenko and Lennard Freeman celebrated in the paint throughout the game, but especially in the third quarter when they just scored, and scored and scored uncontested basket after basket after basket.
“Any coach can’t be happy if you have one or two team fouls,” Adomaitis said. “It’s the simplest thing to do and we watch that after every game. You could save 6-10 points if we did that and it’s not the hardest thing to do.”
What was even more concerning for Jerusalem fans was the lack of concern from Malcolm Hill following the game, “Haifa had a good game plan as did we but the start hurt us a lot. We showed that we can fight and we have to get better to maintain a run and not get too down. Major props to their players. They played really well and they got comfortable around us and they hit some important shots and big shots. We’re going to watch film and try to get better and move on.”
As for his thoughts when asked if he felt the team disappointed the fans, Hill said, “I wouldn’t put it that way but it’s upsetting that we couldn’t get the win. Having the fans was awesome and even after the game the fans are telling us to keep our heads up.”
His coach felt that perhaps he could have done a better job ahead of the game in preparation, “It’s more painful because we had the fans. The coaches and players and I have to take responsibility for that, maybe I didn’t use the right words before the game.”
Adomaitis really had no answers as to why and how his Jerusalem team looked the way they did and even said that he was surprised because this isn’t how his team looks in practice. The question here is, is this his team? Is this his style of play? “We are more of a pick and roll team and Chris (Kramer) is out and we have problems with the ball handlers, so we have to change the style of the game. We are waiting for Chris to come back and then we will see.”
Sounds very much like the style of Oded Katash’s squads with the pick and roll and not the team that Adomaitis really wants to see or envisions as his own. The question is, will he ever have that chance to mold the team in his likeness?