1. Although Maccabi Tel Aviv leads Hapoel Beer Sheva 2-0 in their quarterfinal series they have not been exactly dominant in either of the wins. The first game which was played at Yad Eliyahu saw Oded Katash’s squad get by without moving out of first gear while game two was not much better as they struggled to put away the 8th place club and were actually behind as time ticked off the clock in the final frame before winning unconvincingly 80-76.
Right now for the yellow-and-blue it’s winning by any means especially coming off the tough five game Euroleague quarterfinal series with Monaco. Katash’s squad has done what they have had to do in their last three games, win against Hapoel Tel Aviv to secure home court throughout the playoffs and take the opening two games of their series with Beer Sheva.
“We made some big plays in the fourth quarter,” Katash said. “But they scored some big baskets but we were dominant on the rebound, the little things won us the game. It’s clear we need to be much better in order to win the championship.”
However, Wade Baldwin and Josh Nebo have been out since the Derby with injuries and it’s clear that the team is missing the pair, especially the guard and they will be key pieces in a title run.
While Lorenzo Brown understood that there is no situation that Maccabi could accept a loss at Beer Sheva and he turned up the offense and defense, there will be concern in the semifinals if Maccabi doesn’t get their play in gear.
“Of course I want to be the same player from the Euroleague,” Brown commented. “We want to win the league title and come back even stronger next season. Beer Sheva is a good team with good players who can hit the open shot. They can also dish out the ball as well, but our defense is good enough as well.”
Roman Sorkin also spoke about the game that was, “The win is what was most important from this game. It’s the playoffs and we have wins and goals that we want to reach. We will be even more ready and come into the home game with more energy. Beer Sheva deserves credit as they play good basketball and have an excellent coach. We are a big team and rebound well. Playoffs are like a new season.”
Despite the credit given to Beer Sheva, the yellow-and-blue will most probably play Hapoel Holon in the semifinals and they have been terrific the past month especially in their two playoff games so far as they look to close out their quarterfinal series with Hapoel Galil Elyon.
Goodes’s squad is scoring at will with Shawn Dawson, CJ Harris, Joe Ragland and the rest of the team playing their best ball of the season and Maccabi will need to find a way to stop them and also create offense.
Of course, both of these series are not over and are at 2-0 against their respective foes, but the writing is all over the wall.
2. Another series which is heading on a one way highway is Hapoel Tel Aviv and Nes Ziona as the Reds are also in the drivers seat with a 2-0 lead. After a dismal first half in game one, Danny Franco’s squad turned it all right around as Tomer Ginat, Chinanu Onuaku and Xavier Munford have been brilliant on the court as they took game one and then walloped Nes Ziona 106-75 on the road.
It looks like the Reds are steamrolling their way into the semifinals as everything clicked at the right time.
“Coaching staff prepared us well,” Munford explained. “We watched a ton of film where we saw our mistakes from the first half of last game. We wanted to come out here and be aggressive and not let those same mistakes happen at the start of this game. We watched the second half of last game and wanted to come out and do that in the first half of this game.”
Franco gave credit to last season’s MVP Chinanu Onuaku, “He made a switch as to how he is coming in on the defensive side and we can see that in his game. We have a lot of talented players but not physically and he took that upon himself.”
One of the reasons why Nes Ziona is having such a tough time is because of how Hapoel is stopping DJ Cooper who was named as a 1st Team All-Star, “We always have to find solutions whether it’s the pick and roll or we are also trying to get him as tired as we can when it gets to the late stages of the game. We try to make sure he can’t do things that he likes to and in the next game we will try something else that we haven’t done yet but we know if he will feel comfortable their entire team will also feel comfortable.”
As for advancing into the next round, Munford doesn’t want to look to far ahead, “We don’t want to talk too early as they have some good players and a good coach. That’s our motivation going in and our mindset, but we can’t underestimate that team.”
3. Maurice Kemp has had a stellar season with 20 points and 8.2 rebounds per game to go along with a 24.4 PIR rating for Bnei Herzliya. He has been consistently good game in and game out having scored in double digits in every single game this season. Yes, that is correct, every single game. Quite impressive.
So it came as a surprise that when a report from Tomer Givati from Israel HaYom stated that Kemp was not included in the League’s 1st Team All-Stars.
There are plenty of arguments to make why he should not be included and that is due to where the team finished the regular season, but there are also plenty of reasons why he should be as well. Both Julian Gamble and head coach Oren Aharoni made their case for the forward to be honored by the league.
“100% he deserves to be in it,” Gamble said. “He’s an MVP candidate. Everyone sees what he does game in game out and he’s a dynamic guy that can effect the game. We have to have some more team success but even then when you have those numbers he deserves to be in the top 5 and MVP conversation.”
“I think that’s it’s very strange that he was not in the top 5 and he deserves to be there. He had a great season,” Aharoni stated.
4. Lastly, there seems to be much controversy about when game four of the Hapoel Jerusalem and Bnei Herzliya game will take place. Immediately following the game the League Administration posted the date of the contest which would take place back in Herzliya on Saturday night. That raised the ire of Herzliya chairman Eldad Akunis who wanted the game to take place on Sunday night and made his feelings known loud and clear to the league CEO Shlomi Peri. So much so that a security guard needed to separate the parties so that the things didn’t take a wrong turn.
However, it seems that according to Hapoel Jerualem the day of the game has been changed to Sunday which they say is against league administration rules. A memo was publicized stating that they are against the game being moved to a different day and that the coaching staff has out together a proper plan ahead of the contest while the fans have also made arrangements for the clash.
Herzliya for their part also released a statement about how they had to begin the series late due to an event that Hapoel Jerusalem had on May 17. The series ended up beginning on May 18 and that was something forced upon by the league administration they said.
There has yet to have been an official statement by the league. Stay tuned.