Hapoel Jerusalem blew out Lietkabelis 97-70 in Lithuania on Gameday 9 of the Champions League as James Feldeine starred with 19 points, Tamir Blatt off the bench drained 16 points and dished 8 assists in the dominant victory.
Lietkabelis came out strong using the paint to their advantage to take an early 13-6 lead thanks to six points by Mindaugus Kupsas. However, after a timeout by Oded Katash and the insertion of Amare Stoudmire and Tamir Blatt the Reds who were wearing Black came alive and finished off the quarter even at 26-26 thanks to Tashawn Thomas’s 8 points. The second quarter was all Jerusalem as Feldeine, Blatt and Stoudmire picked up the pace to take a 56-41 lead after twenty minutes.
Jerusalem extended their lead to 80-57 after three quarters as Blatt and Thomas continued with a solid 1-2 punch and the final frame was garbage time galore with Bar Timor getting rare European playing time and Jo Lual-Acuil getting 7+ minutes of action while scoring 6 points.
1) After beginning the game a bit shaky, Jerusalem rattled off a 20-13 run to finish the first quarter and then continued their offensive onslaught over the 2nd and 3rd quarters. At the half the Reds were shooting 71% from the field dominating play. Over the middle quarters Jerusalem outscored Lietkabelis 54-31 and it was game set and match. Tashawn Thomas was huge as were Feldeine and Blatt to kill off the game. Kupsas valiantly scored 17 points in the first half but Jerusalem neutralized him after that. Coach Katash spoke about the key to the game, “They were a tough team who kept it close in the first half but we really played solid defense in the 3rd quarter to take the win.” As they say defense wins games, but it also doesn’t hurt to score as well too.
2) Katash, Yogev Ohayon and Amare Stoudemire all said the same thing right after the game, “It was a very important win after two losses”. And that’s the truth. The last thing that Jerusalem wanted to do was to fall for a third time in a row and create more frustration and tension. Anything and everything clicked the right was for the Reds and that’s good news for them as they ready themselves for a road game in Ashdod and a home contest against fellow Champions League participants Hapoel Holon. STAT spoke about what the win can do for the team, “For us to get this win shows that we are a team that can definitely compete. We have to take this win and use it as motivation to continue to build as a team and keep getting better.”
3) The first quarter defense is still a worrying point for Katash and he was very clear that this is still an issue that needs work, “We gave up 26 points in the first quarter and we weren’t aggressive enough as we still had two fouls to give. This is something that we spoke about and we have to find a way to solve the issue.” Again this brings us to the point of the level of competition. If Jerusalem wants to compete with the likes of Maccabi they will need to improve and MUST take a serious look at the last two losses to find a solution to the defensive issues.
It was good to see Bar Timor get time in a European clash although he was shaky and Jo Lual-Acuil who scored 6 points. Alex Chubrevich also played and scored 4 points while Josh Owens dropped 8 points as did J’Covan Brown. It seemed that everyone had a part in the victory. Lior Eliyahu played 4+ minutes all in the first half and scored 2 points. The only question is why only 4 minutes? There was plenty of time available for him to play in the second half, although Katash will need to him against Ashdod and he’s got to get him back on track. That’s another project that the club needs to work on and fast in addition to the defense.
It was interesting to see Tamir Blatt not find a place in the starting 5 and as to how poorly Jerusalem began the game. But once Blatt came in the house was put in order and the guard was just magnificent with four 3-pointers and 8 helpers. It was as if he came on with a chip on his shoulder and said I’ll show you for not starting me. Good job.