Head to Head: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Hapoel Tel Aviv Israel League Finals – Ben Pask vs The Sports Rabbi

Jun 8, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

After 179 games through the regular season and the playoffs (and after the Ticket-Gate sage of the last few days), Game 1 of the best-of-three finals series between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv will take place at Yad Eliyahu – Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv (21:15 IDT / 14:15 EDT).

It will be the fourth meeting between the teams this season, with their last clash being the final game of the regular season, on May 14, when Maccabi defeated Hapoel 89-82. This was also Red’s last loss, as both teams have gone undefeated throughout the playoffs.

In order to provide you, the reader a bit of colorful analysis, Ben Pask and The Sports Rabbi Josh Halickman have gone head-to-head with each picking a side to prove their point as to who will win this series.

First up is Ben who lets you know why Maccabi will be triumphant yet once again.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“All I do is win.” This is the title of DJ Khaled’s popular song, which is played at Maccabi Tel Aviv home games during the EuroLeague (for those who aren’t Maccabi fans – that’s the top European basketball competition, one above the EuroCup).

Tell me, why don’t basketball players like to leave their own city? Because they hate traveling so much. We’re lucky that both teams and fans won’t have to travel so far to see which team will be crowned the best in Israel, as we have our first Tel Aviv derby finals series in 18 years.

For those who aren’t familiar with Israeli basketball, Maccabi is a winner and the team has 55 league titles to its name to prove it. This, my friends, is why Maccabi is going to defeat Hapoel Tel Aviv and win its 56th league title this Sunday night at the Drive In.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Don’t get me wrong, Hapoel has had a great season. They made the final of the Winner Cup (where they lost to Maccabi) and they got through to the round of 16 of the EuroCup. They even beat Hapoel Jerusalem in the Winner League semifinal series – a sweep – to secure a place in the final. At points throughout the season, Hapoel Jerusalem was arguably the best team in the season. Unfortunately for Jerusalem, it went downhill after their BCL Final Four semifinal win over Tenerife. They lost to Bonne in the final and then stumbled through Bnei Herzliya in the quarterfinal of the Winner League, but it was clear that Jerusalem’s big win was against Tenerife. The same now applies to Hapoel – they’ve exceeded expectations by beating Jerusalem and reaching the Winner League final. Congratulations on a great season, my friends in red, but this is where it ends.

Even if Maccabi doesn’t sweep Hapoel, the home team has won in each of their three Winner League matchups this season. If that trend continues, then Hapoel will only be delaying the inevitable and they will have a long trip across town to get home when Maccabi lifts the trophy at Yad Eliyahu on Tuesday night.

Let’s be serious for a moment. Maccabi’s coach, Oded Katash, had his first candidacy with Maccabi in 2007-08. He wasn’t successful, but he then found success later with Jerusalem, winning a league title and two state cups. Why did he handle the Maccabi breakup so well? Because, like his players, he can always rebound.

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

We often talk about which team’s starting backcourt is better (for the record, it’s Maccabi’s Brown and Baldwin), but many would agree that one of the keys to winning this series is going to be the frontcourt battle. In fact, in their previous matchups in the regular season, the team who won on the boards also won the game. Without getting into the numbers, in their semifinal matchups, Maccabi beat Hapoel Holon on the rebounds in both of their games. Hapoel? They couldn’t even beat Jerusalem on the boards in one of their games.

I’ll leave you with one more reason. What’s the difference between the Hapoel players and a one dollar bill? You can still get four quarters out of a dollar bill. In the second semifinal against Holon, Maccabi won every quarter against the yellow and purple to come into the finals series storming and in form. Hapoel? They only won three of their quarters in their last game against Jerusalem.

This, my friends, is why this time next week, the city of Tel Aviv will be painted yellow and there will be no signs of any red until October. May the best team (Maccabi) win!

Jordan McRae – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

This is it! Hapoel Tel Aviv is going to capture their first championship since the 1968-69 season. I can feel it, I can sense it, I just know that this is the time for the Reds to finally take down Maccabi Tel Aviv in a championship series.

The Hapoel fans have waited a very, very, very long time to celebrate a league title and they are foaming at the mouth with the possibility that this is it. This is the year and this is the season that it will happen.

Hapoel Tel Aviv fans – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

And they have plenty of good reasons to think just that.

Let’s start with the fact that Hapoel have the best Israeli core group of any other team in the league hands down. Tomer Ginat who made a massively tough decision to make his Israeli comeback and sign with the Reds for less money than heading to Maccabi Tel Aviv after a couple of seasons in France is the leader of the pack. His veteran influence and the fact that he can take any other forward Israeli or import in the league is a huge advantage. Plus he was named Israeli of the Season. Need more be said?

Add that to Bar Timor who always seems to ratchet it up against Maccabi with big game after big game as we saw in last year’s playoff series plus he was named 6th Man of the Season. Big man Idan Zalmanson in the front court makes for a very formidable Sabra trio.

But that’s not all.

Tomer Ginat – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Gil Beni will hound any guard that he will play up against and a 3-point threat in Adam Ariel, well Danny Franco’s got some Israeli contingent without even looking at the foreigners who are one by one stars in their own right.

What can you say about J’Covan Brown? He’s lethal from deep, he’s lethal from the midrange and he’s a lethal winner every step of the way. How many times have we seen Brown carve up defense after defense, one by one. We saw it against Jerusalem just last week, we saw it against Nes Ziona and we saw it time and time again when Brown laces them up to play Maccabi. He will do the same this series no doubt.

Jordan McRae is a star. How many times did he win the EuroCup Player of the Week award this past season? How many times did he take the team on his back and will the Reds to a win? McRae will show up in a big way in these contests, you can mark that down.

How about Xavier Munford? Yet another star who could have made the Israeli League Team of the Season. How can’t you love watching Munford play. He’s always all in no matter what game, which place and at what hour. He’s the man.

Xavier Munford – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

This trio of guards will no doubt give Lorenzo Brown, Wade Baldwin and John Dibartolomeo oodles of trouble without a doubt.

Did we forget that Hapoel has last season’s MVP on the roster as well?

That would be Chinanu Onuaku.

How many times has he carved up Maccabi in the past two seasons? He’s a huge threat any which way you slice it. He’s just fantastic in the paint and outside of it and if he continues playing the way he did in the playoffs so far then he should will cause the likes of Alex Poythress, Roman Sorkin and Jake Cohen all kinds of issues.

Chinanu Onuaku – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Finally, Jaylen Hoard can be the X-Factor for Hapoel as he can inflict damage on Maccabi in and around the basket.

Head coach Danny Franco has been around the block a few times and knows what to expect from Maccabi Tel Aviv as he will try and find a way to win game one with 1500 fans at Yad Eliyahu. He knows full well that if he can do just that then all the Reds need to do is win at home in front of their faithful who will make the Drive In Arena into the toughest place for the yellow-and-blue to ever walk into.

Even if Hapoel loses game one their fans will still be a huge factor at home and can spur them on to a victory setting up a winner take all game 3 back at Yad Eliyahu where we all know that anything can happen.

Hapoel have been knocked down time and time again. This time will be different and should the series go the distance then anything and everything can certainly happen.

Hapoel Tel Aviv fans – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

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