Hapoel Jerusalem fell to Turk Telekom 98-94 as the Reds got their Champions League campaign started off on the wrong foot in Ankara. Oded Katash’s squad took a 3-point lead into halftime thanks to strong play by Suleiman Braimoh, while Tashawn Thomas sparked a huge 18-2 run to start the final frame as Jerusalem tried to offset Kyle Wiltjer’s big night, but Tyler Ennis and Erdi Gulaslan played spoilers to take the win.
Wiltjer led all scorers with 33 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, Ennis added 16 points, while Gulaslan and Eric each scored 14 points in the victory. Tashawn Thomas scored 21 points for Jerusalem, Kramer added 18 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists while Braimoh chipped in with 18 points and Malcom Hill scored 15 points and pulled down 9 boards in the loss.
Turk Telekom got off to a strong start in the paint as Michael Eric dominated the inside for the hosts as Tashawn Thomas tried to keep Jerusalem close but were in the hole 15-9 midway through the first quarter. Chris Kramer started to heat up with a pair of triples and Suleiman Braimoh scored inside as Oded Katash’s squad stayed close 25-23 after ten minutes.
Braimoh, Malcolm Hill and Tarik Phillip all found the basket but Wiltjer kept scoring for Turk as the score was all knotted up at 36-36 with 5 minuets left in the second quarter. Kramer went from deep again as did Adam Ariel for his first points of the game but Can Korkmaz, Kamar Baldwin and Sam Dekker all scored as Jerusalem pull ahead 49-46 at the half.
Baldwin and Tyler Ennis scored from behind the arc and then an active Ennis hit a driving layup to help Turk to a 10-2 run and a 56-51 lead midway through the third quarter. Braimoh answered for the Reds as did Idan Zalamanson, but Ennis and Wiltjer scored in the paint and Erdi Gulaslan nailed a pair of triples to end the frame in front 78-67.
Thomas buckets a plenty, Kramer with a couple and Phillip with a monster dunk sent Jerusalem on an 18-2 run to take the lead 81-80 with 6:19 remaining in the fourth quarter. Thomas scored right in Wiltjer’s face but Ennis drained another 3-pointer and Wiltjer scored in the paint to retake the advantage 88-87 with 3:10 left in regulation time. Tamir Blatt missed two shots from deep and Dekker punished Jerusalem with one of his own from the corner while Wiltjer, Ennis and Gulaslan scored from the line to wrap up the 98-94 win.
1) Jerusalem let this game get away from them when they had it in the mitt and in fact they were actually was the better all around team overall in this game, but it’s not easy to sometimes play against 8 players on the court. Yes, Oded Katash made some mistakes in this game, yes some of the shooting was brutal (we will get to that soon) and yes Turk did have the best player on the court in Kyle Wiltjer but when you look at the foul calls you’ve got to scratch your head a bit. Jerusalem was called for 27 fouls to 18 for Turk while the Ankara based squad shot 30 free throws compared to Jerusalem’s 11. That’s a big, big gap. Way too big. Tashawn Thomas alluded to that in his post game comments, “It was a very tough game but I am proud as to how we came in and played in this tough environment. I watched them last year and coming here we knew it would be tough. I wish it would have ended a different way but we didn’t get the calls, the foul count was actually crazy and we will have to live with it and move on and get better.”
2) Not to take anything away from the hosts as Kyle Wiltjer was phenomenal throughout the game and was unstoppable from the outside and in the paint. Wiltjer was a guest on this week’s Holy Land Hoops show where he spoke to The Sports Rabbi about his team and career as well as playing with and learning from some of the best in James Harden and Anthony Davis just to name two. He was dominant not just in one quarter but every frame to the tune of 9,8,8,8. Not bad at all as he rightfully earned The Sports Rabbi MVP award for the game. The Canadian international spoke about the win following the game, “I am happy we got the win in a tough game against Jerusalem and it was tough without fans but we got the win.”
3) Jerusalem did look good for some stretches of the game especially in the 2nd quarter and at the start of the 4th frame when Thomas led the team on some runs together with Chris Kramer. The guard chalked up another excellent performance as he controlled the game at times and was poised playing as a true leader that he is known to be. Tarik Phillip, Su Braimoh and Malcolm Hill all contributed nicely while Tamir Blatt handed out 11 assists. However, Hill went 1/7 from deep and Blatt’s shooting was something to be desired going 1/8 from 3-point land including 3 misses in money time that could have made the difference in the game. That’s rough as the pair went 2/15 combined. Add to that Adam Ariel who was 1/5 and now we’re taking about 3/20 for a measly 15% form the trio. YIKES! Katash said that the team still isn’t in prime shape and that could certainly be the case, “We knew that it was going to be a tough game and we played against a talented team. We didn’t come into this game in our best shape but I really I liked the effort fun my players. This is a tough group and I am looking forward to the next one.”