It’s clear that Hapoel Jerusalem is head and shoulders above most teams in the Israel basketball league and they proved that once more when they knocked off Hapoel Holon 77-65 in Basketball Champions League action. The win moved the reds closer to clinching a spot in the Final 8 while the purples will have two more home games that will be meaningless as they have been eliminated from contention to advance to the next stage.
Jerusalem bench boss, Aleksandar Dzikic is simply a master tactician that turns everything he touches into gold time and time again. The Serbian may not want to hear it and he will never say it himself, but he is the best head coach in the country hands down. No one comes close.
“Imagine what they could do with a good coach,” Dzikic told The Sports Rabbi.
He knows how to prepare his players perfectly for any and every opponent no matter what competition they are playing in. If it’s the Israeli league, BCL or the State Cup, Dzikic has worked his magic in each while also proving he can win in hostile environments such as Holon’s Toto Arena, the Drive In and Yad Eliyahu.
You can add check marks to wins over Hapoel Holon, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv. But not just one check mark but two as he has knocked off each one of those teams twice.
The Reds and Dzikic are exactly like Israel and the Jewish people, they are inseparable. Hapoel Jerusalem is Aleksandar Dzikic and Aleksandar Dzikic is Hapoel Jerusalem.
The character, the passion, the desire, the drive.
Dzikic is not a good coach, he’s right. He’s a great one.
“Over the summer, the way we picked guys, not too many fans understood that process,” Dzikic said. “No superstar names and a lot of guys who didn’t play in Israel. But they played hard and each one gives up a little bit of themselves for the good of the team. That is most unselfish of themselves especially the ones who are doing that on a one year deal. Stats are key, but where are the stats of Misgav or Cornelius pressing the ball.”
Plus you can easily add in Speedy Smith into that equation with 26 points and stifling defense as well.
Sure stats are key, especially when it comes to players scoring their next contract. Points, rebounds, assists and eventing else that can be ascertained by a players statistics are the easiest way to find out what a guard, forward or center can do. But it really leaves much to be desired when you don’t watch or see a player live and in the flesh.
You need to see what Dzikic mentioned if it’s passing the ball, help recover the first pass and more. Plus you don’t see a player’s body language, his character, passion, desire or drive from the stat sheet. You need to see that with your own two eyes.
Levi Randolph spoke to The Sports Rabbi in February about how his role has changed from last season when he was the leading scorer of the BCL with Oostende and the fact that he has many other roles in the capital city.
“Like we spoke about last time, I’m here to do what it takes to win ball games, not be the top scorer necessarily. Everyone gives a little of themselves for the better of the team.”
The swingman not only scored 13 points, grabbed 6 boards and dished out 6 assists, he also had a couple of blocked shots. That was something he said that he would have never had in the past alon with how Dzikic pushes him to do the small things that won’t show up in the statical analysis at the end of the game.
Jerusalem had jumped out to a 19 point lead midway through the second quarter and it looked as if Holon had folded up like a cheap suit. However, somehow, Guy Goodes team came back and made a game of it by the end of the half cutting the deficit down to just 3-points, 41-38 leaving everyone at the Jerusalem Arena stunned including the Dzikic’s charges.
“The reason they came back is that we lost focus and we stopped being aggressive,” Or Cornelius commented.
Randolph also spoke about what the talk was in the lockerroom at halftime, “It was just about getting back to what we do. We had to say alright fellas we got to stick to what we do. We knew it wouldn’t be easy as this is a good team. They can run anytime therefore we needed to stick to the game plan. It worked for us.”
“We spent a lot of energy to get that big lead,” Dzikic began to explain. “When the bench guys don’t give that energy, we let them come back. We could have been a bit better in the second half and we were not scoring on some of their defensive sets.
When Holon cut down the lead, there was belief on their bench that they could come away with the win and despite Jerusalem bumping the lead right back up in the third quarter, Holon kept cutting it back down, but eventually the Reds depth did the purples in.
“Of course we thought we could win,” Shawn Dawson who has been on a recent hot streak said. “They were leading by almost twenty and we were able to cut that lead and it was a new game. But they ran ahead, we came back again but then we weren’t able to come back once again after that.”
Goodes felt that despite the fact that his team had made it a game, his team would not have the staying power to close it out.
“It’s not easy to comeback with the lineup that we had. We knew that at halftime that the lineup can’t hold together for long. We did make a run and came back but for the long run it was not easy to continue with that same lineup.”
While Jerusalem is tearing it up right now and other teams are faltering, Randolph feels that as good as they are, they can be even better as they look to punch their ticket to the next round of play.
“It’s very important to clinch is the round of 8. We need to take it one at a time. Honestly if we stick to what we are doing we can move on. It’s crazy because what makes us scary is that it’s a different guy every night and you don’t know where it’s coming from.”