Hungover: Jerusalem needs to get over Final 4, lack of clarity and get back to basics after Herzliya loss

May 22, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

There’s no question that Hapoel Jerusalem is hungover and is having some trouble coming back down to earth from the Basketball Champions League Final Four in Malaga. It was clear in their game one win of the quarterfinal series against Bnei Herzliya at the Arena in the Capital City and it was even more crystal clear in their 75-64 loss in game two at the HaYovel Arena.

Lack of intensity, lack of focus and lack of clarity was at the forefront for Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad which also included some indecisiveness as to who was going to stand on the sidelines for this game after the bench boss had been ill over the last few days.

No one for Jerusalem seemed to have played well and stepped up in this game and that has to be concerning for the entire club from player 1 to 12 as well as management and the coaching staff.

Herzliya celebrates – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

What has worked so well for the Reds all season long with perfect clarity as to what each and everyone’s task is has begun to unravel.

Does that mean they will lose this series to Oren Aharoni’s very short squad? That’s still difficult to see happening as Jerusalem’s depth is far, far superior to that of Herzliya, but in sports you never know.

Herzliya is giving Jerusalem a fight for their lives and that will continue into game three without a doubt back at the Arena.

Yair Kravetz – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

With only 7 players in the rotation, the two remaining senior Israelis Yair Kravetz and Oded Brandwein after Sandy Cohen had to undergo emergency surgery, had to step up after a dismal performance with only 3 paltry points and missed defensive assignments.

Step up they did as Kravetz took hold of the game right from the get go with 3-pointer after 3-pointer to end the contest going a perfect 4/4 from deep and 14 points overall which is a far cry from his long distance shooting in game one.

Yair Kravetz and Mareks Majeris – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Brandwein also took the bull by the horns with 10 points but also understanding his role and playing it to perfection.

“They have been extremely helpful,” veteran big man Julian Gamble said. “With Sandy Cohen not being able to play, they have to fill in as do we all. We instill confidence in Yair in and when he shoots confidently he can make those shots. Oded knows where to be and his experience was really key for us in this win.”

Aleksandar Dzikic and Oren Aharoni – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Aharoni was also content with how both Kravetz and Brandwein responded, “With such a short squad their importance is massive. They did a great job and I am very happy and proud because they both come to work hard and they want to listen. Yair came into this game after a tough one last week and I proud and happy for him.”

Kravetz also reflected on his performance thus far, “I believed in the team and the team believed in me which is the most important thing. I didn’t feel any pressure after the first game because this is what basketball is, day by day. I think that we are special team no matter how many Israelis or imports we have – we are one team. I have a great connection with Oren and even after a subpar game he will come over and see where we can learn from mistakes. This is going to be a tough series for both teams and we have to keep playing with our heart.”

Yair Kravetz and Maurice Kemp – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

However, if Herzliya wants to make more noise in game there on Wednesday night and game four on Saturday evening, the Israeli duo as well as the 5 imports will all need to play their best basketball.

There is no doubt that they will according to Gamble, “You play these games for a long period of time, these types of things happen and you have to control what you can control, defense and attitude, having veteran guys, coaching staff and organization we are going to fight and give our heart. They will make some adjustments next game and we have place to improve.”

Julian Gamble – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

The question is has Jerusalem heard the wakeup call?

Turning the ball over more times than the assists recorded on the stat sheet, being outrebounded on the offensive glass and looking lackadaisical for plenty minutes of the court will not do going forward. Jerusalem must get back to the basics and the fundamentals that helped them make it all the way to the BCL Final where they fell to Bonn.

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

They have to get over the hangover that Zach Hankins feels is effecting their play, “Honestly ya, but there are no excuses. There should be no excuses and no hangover whatsoever. It’s definitely a challenge mentally to think about two different seasons and have two different things going on at once. But one is over so it’s on us and we have to get over it, we have something to win and we did not come out to win tonight. We have to come back here again and hopefully that will be the end of it.”

The hangover also includes the players knowing who is going to be on the bench as the club sent out an official message at 6:05pm that the coach would be staying at home under the weather but then at 7:03pm the bench boss arrives to the arena in any case.

Shai Olerarczyk – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Assistant coach Shai Olerarczyk spoke about Dzikic’s decision to manage the game and arrive at the 90th minute, “We were in touch and it was his choice to come and he’s the coach. It’s his decision if he wants to coach the team sit in the stands or stay at home. He decided to come here and help the team.”

Hankins also talked about the coach’s surprise decision to show up just before tipoff, “A little bit because I saw a report that he wasn’t coming. He has sacrificed so much for us and it’s not unexpected that he is going to sacrifice more for us even if he is feeling ill and he expects the same from us. We know what we can do and it all comes down to effort and pushing through things.”

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Clarity at this point of the season is critical and so far for the opening two games of the playoffs there has been a lack of that.

It also doesn’t help when the de facto owner of the team Eyal Homsky is yelling at the referees in Hebrew “embarrassment” over and over again right next to the players bench. The team needs to focus on the task at hand and not be concerned about things they can’t control.

That is also the case with Herzliya as the minute the league administration put out a message that game four would be on Saturday night, team chairman Eldad Akunis started ranting and raving that the game should have been slated for Sunday and also had to be separated from the league CEO Shlomi Peri on the court in a less than pleasant confrontation. Again control what you can and let the other things go.

Jerusalem can say that they are not the favorites until the cows come home, but everyone knows who the deeper and more talented team is on paper.

Chris Babb and Levi Randolph – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Yes on paper, but the games are played on the court and if Jerusalem doesn’t get their heads straight from top to bottom their season may end a lot sooner than they expected.

“What it comes down to is what you do on the court and anybody can beat anybody,” Hankins noted. “We’re hoping that we don’t get beat again but when teams are playing their best you can tell who the favorites is and we absolutely didn’t play our best and they were aloe to have some guys step up and hit some shots. But we have to do better whether we are the favorites or not.”

Hapoel Jerusalem -Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

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