The Butler Returns – Jerusalem outlasts Nes Ziona 90-82

Hapoel Jerusalem needed a late run to put away Nes Ziona 90-82 at the Pais Arena in the nation’s capital. The Reds were cruising along until the visitor’s pulled even at 77-77 with 3:15 left in the 4th quarter. However, a Da’Sean Butler, Bar Timor and James Feldeine helped Jerusalem to the victory. Chris Johnson led the host’s with 15 points, Butler scored 14 points and Tashawn Thomas dropped 14 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and recorded a 28 efficiency rating in the win while Daequan Cook was the Nes Ziona high scorer with 27 points.

Jerusalem raced out to a 15-8 lead thanks to Thomas’s fine play but Nes Ziona came storming back when Cook drained a pair of three’s and topped the frame off with 10 points as the first quarter ended with the capital city side ahead 24-21. Three triples by Tamir Blatt and six points from Johnson helped Jerusalem go on a 17-0 run to take a 44-27 lead midway through the second quarter. A red hot Cook valiantly tried to get his squad back into the game but Jerusalem held a 53-37 advantage at halftime.

Johnson and Thomas continued to push the host’s ahead in the 3rd quarter while Cook answered for Nes Ziona as Jerusalem took a 70-53 lead into the final frame. However Tal Dunne, Gary Browne and Oded Brandwein helped the visitor’s go on a 12-0 run to begin the 4th quarter to cut the Jerusalem lead to 70-65 and then pulled even at 77-77. But a triple by Butler and a bucket by Timor gave Jerusalem the lead and the 90-82 win.

1) Jerusalem received excellent play from both its small forwards Chris Johnson and Da’Sean Butler as the duo ended the night with 15 points (4/6) and 14 points (5/6) respectively. Both have recently been out with injuries, Johnson with a broken hand and Butler with a back issue but are now getting back into game shape and will be counted on going forward. “We played well in the first half and Coach told us at halftime that we have to keep to our principles,” Johnson commented following the game. “They are a dangerous team of you get comfortable and they cut our lead. They made a run but at the end of the night we got the win but we’ve got something to learn from this game.” The forward also spoke about his return to the court, “I’m feeling good and I’m happy to be out there with my team competing.”

2) Jerusalem Coach Oded Katash was certainly happy to come away with the win after his team blew a huge lead but was also happy to get back Da’Sean Butler and Chris Johnson. Butler has arguably one of his best offensive evenings and showed what he can do with the ball on the attack. Basketball aficionados are all aware as to what kind of great college player Butler was with West Virginia when he took his team to the 2010 Final Four where his squad eventually lost to Jon Sheyer’s Duke University and where he suffered a torn ACL and sprained MCL. Butler has been an amazing stopper on the defensive end this campaign and hasn’t shined offensively but against Nes Ziona he scored some clutch buckets down the stretch to help Jerusalem to the win. Katash spike about Butler and Johnson’s return to the court, “Their return is very important for us after their injuries and the team will have to adjust to having them both back. They are one of our strengths as a team and gives us the ability to be a more dangerous club.”

3) Jerusalem has to be very careful to know how to put away teams and not allow them back in the game. We’ve seen them blow away the likes of Nahariya, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Herzliya but last week they fell in Rishon Le’Zion and Nes Ziona gave them a huge scare when they knotted up the game at 77-77 late in the decisive quarter. The Reds need to know how to kill off teams and more importantly know how to adjust when a team changes up tactics and in this case go to a smaller lineup. It took Jerusalem a good while to make this adjustment and allowed Nes Ziona to go on a 12-0 run to open the 4th quarter. But as the players and coach said, they must learn from this and make sure they don’t make the same mistake twice because next time they may not be able to win the game. “It’s good to win and we made the stops we needed to at the end of the game, but we need to know how to deal with these types of games,” Katash said following the contest.

Jerusalem has to put the Lior Eliyahu vs Oded Katash clash behind them as soon as possible. It’s clear that the two aren’t on the same page as the captain won’t return to play until next Saturday against Hapoel Gilboa/Galil. Eliyahu was at practice on Friday but as reported on Sport5 Katash was unhappy with the forward and decided that he wouldn’t dress him for the Nes Ziona and Champions League game coming up on Tuesday. The longer this lingers the more issues it will create and Jerusalem has to put an end to the nonsense.

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