Hapoel Jerusalem fell to Elan Bearnais 81-75 as the Reds fell for the first time this season in Champions League play. Oded Katash’s crew never looked quite right throughout the 40 minutes as the hosts were able to contain James Feldeine (7 points) and Tamir Blatt (5 points) while holding J’Covan Brown to 15 points and Suleiman Briamoh to 11 points as Jerusalem shot a paltry 6/25 from 3-point land in the loss. Idan Zalmanson was the one bright light with 12 points while Bar Timor scored 6 points in four minutes. Justin Dentmon scored 22 points and Petr Cornelie added 12 points for Elan in the win.
Tyrus McGee and Ronald Moore helped the hosts to a 21-17 lead after ten minutes as inspired play by Bar Timor and Idan Zalmanson supplied the offense early on for the Reds. Cheikh Mbodj, Travis Leslie and Petr Cornelie continued to press for Elan while Tamir Blatt and Isaiah Cousins were able to send the game into halftime all knotted up at 34-34.
Jerusalem began the third quarter well but Elan quickly ripped off a 11-0 run to go up 47-40 midway through the frame as Justin Dentmon and McGee did the damage for the hosts. Dentmon kept scoring at will from the outside as Zalmanson and J’Covan Brown pulled Jerusalem to within one point, 58-57 with ten minutes remaining in regulation time.
Brown and Suleiman Braimoh countered Cornelie and Dentmon but Elan took a 76-68 lead with under four minutes left in the 4th quarter. Jerusalem got to within 78-75 thanks to Cousins and Braimoh but that would be as close as the Reds would get as they fell for the first time this season in Champions League play 81-75.
1) Jerusalem didn’t look right throughout the 40 minutes in France and just couldn’t get into a groove to find their rhythm whatsoever. It seemed that the week between games didn’t do them any favors as the Reds looked a step slow and rusty “We couldn’t find our rhythm offensively and didn’t do a good job starting aggressively,”explained Katash. “It was tough to referee and they let them play. I didn’t like how we started the game and we had to execute better offensively.” There seemed to be no movement on offense and each possession was a battle of attrition to get a good look or shot off. Elan drilled down the shot clock time after time as forced Jerusalem to do the same forcing Katash’s crew to make poor decisions. And as they say, that was that.
2) Katash said that his squad was ready for a tough encounter, but according to Idan Zalmanson the team wasn’t prepared. “We were ready for an aggressive game and they have talent which they showed today. We knew it depended a lot on us. This was our worst game and we knew they have scorers like Dentmon and we have to give them credit as they were very aggressive.” However, the big man said the following, “It was a tough loss and we didn’t come prepared and didn’t come aggressive enough. They were more aggressive than us and that is what decided the game. We will learn from the game and move forward.” The question is, was Katash and Jerusalem prepared? One thing we learned from last week was that the Reds weren’t prepared to face Anwil’s defense and press from the get go and it seems that Elan coach Laurent Vila took a page right out of Igor Miličić’s playbook.
3) Jerusalem faithful has been warned that every team in the Champions League group can beat one another and that’s what happened to the Reds. No one will go perfect but this loss may sting Katash hard later on as the teas jockey for position. Last year, Jerusalem lost to Antwerp in Belgium which was a game that they should have never lost and it cost them dearly as they were forced to play Tenerife in the quarterfinals. Although Jerusalem is still at the top of the group AEK may match their record on Wednesday night in essence forcing the Reds to not lose the rest of the way. Sure, every team loses a game here or there but they only had two last year in the regular season and now they will have to be very careful not to lose again. “Our group has very dangerous teams and anyone can win on any given day,” apparently what Katash said is going true, very true.
Elan played without last week’s MVP Nicolas de Jong who scored 35 points to lead his club to their first win of the competition and Jerusalem still couldn’t take advantage of his absence which is a shame. However, who did the damage for the hosts? None other than Justin Dentmon, yes the same Dentmon who began his professional career in Israel with Hapoel Afula. Since then he has played with no less than 16 different teams including four stints with the Texas Legends, stops in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks. Impressive and most interesting and he also carved up Jerusalem for 22 points. Isn’t always the Ex’s that seem to do in the Israeli teams time and time again?
Finally, why did Bar Timor who scored 6 points play only 4 minutes? Katash was asked that question an admitted that perhaps he should have played him more but also wanted to play his three lead guards. Just when we all see Timor playing the way we know he can play, he’s back on the bench inexplicably. Oh well, better luck next time, but I certainly hope that this loss won’t cost Jerusalem down the line, because it certainly could.