Hapoel Jerusalem made easy work of Hapoel Beer Sheva winning in the southern capital 118-89. The capital city squad took command early on and disposed of the host’s on the strength of 24 points by James Feldeine who led seven Jerusalem scorers in double digits. Amare Stoudemire scored 17 points, Da’Sean Butler added 16 points and Josh Owens ended his night with 12 points in the win. Jordan Swing scored 20 points as Kerron Johnson dropped 18 points in the loss.
Jerusalem jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead on the strength of a pair of triples by Feldeine and extended their advantage to 35-19 after ten minutes of action. Johnson helped Beer Sheva begin to inch back into the contest but Butler and Feldeine continued to keep Jerusalem ahead 65-43 at halftime recording the most points scored in the first half of a game this season. Tashawn Thomas, Butler and Feldeine scored a will in the third frame as the Jerusalem Reds took a 92-66 lead into the 4th quarter which resulted in garbage time galore as Oded Katash’s squad wrapped up a 118-89 victory.
1) Jerusalem played one of those games where everything just went the right way. Beginning with an 11-0 run, scoring at will, ending the first quarter with 35 points and on and on and on. Add to that going 41/58 for 70.7% from the field which included 15/25 from 3-point land, 37 rebounds, 37 assist and an efficiency rating of 178 (!) and you have the perfect storm. Coach Oded Katash spoke about the win, “I was happy as to how we played on the offensive side of the ball but I have to acknowledge the fact that our shooting percentages were very high. We still have plenty to improve on the defensive side of our game to get to where we need to be.” What was the secret to the team’s success? “It’s not easy to have over a week without a game but this time specifically it was good to be able to rest up and work on various things during practice that we hadn’t been able to,” continued Katash. James Feldeine also commented on the game and getting Chris Johnson back into rhythm, “Getting Chris back into game rhythm is important and he showed that he’s getting better which is a good sign for us. We want to improve every game. We know we can score the ball but sometimes when we play lackadaisical defense it can hurt us. But today we pushed it. Da’Sean Butler was also pleased with the performance and reiterated the practice time the players put in over the past week and change, “Finally some shots went down, but we all did a good job sharing the basketball and finding one another. We made our shots and it showed. Just getting some good practices in this week, where we could have taken time off but we didn’t. We just worked on our transition, our offense and defense. We still need some work on our defense. We didn’t take it easy last week.”
2) Coach Katash had said a few weeks ago that the team had no plans of bringing in a new player after saying goodbye to Demetrius Conger and that only if there was a real reason to bring someone in they would. And they did just that by signing Malcolm Griffin from AEK Athens, a team that played twice in the Champions League this past season. Adding Griffin was a shrewd move by management and one that needs to be applauded. Griffin brings in not only a lot of experience but also has the ability to play a number of roles. He will definitely be a good addition to the squad and when I spoke to him yesterday in Beer Sheva he was not only all smiles to be with Jerusalem but also understands what is expected of him. We had a nice chat about the Champions League Final Four which is coming up this weekend and how both AEK and Jerusalem would have loved to have been there as well.
3) I asked Katash what the reason was for bringing in Griffin, “Chris Johnson still isn’t 100% and we are hoping that his knee will be fine. J’Covan Brown who is a very important player for us is still injured. The signing of Griffin is somewhat of an insurance policy and if we have injury issues we will be able to use him. He understands the situation that he has entered into and it may be that we won’t use him much but there is also a chance that he will be an important player. It was important for us to bring someone with European experience, good character and someone who could play at a number of positions.” Butler was also happy to have another good guy join the team and remembers what Griffin had done to Jerusalem the last time they met when he scored 25 points and had an efficiency rating of 35, “Definitely am familiar with him and he’s a really good player especially the last time we saw him and he had a really great night. I am happy that he will add to our team, somebody who is as talented as he is. He’s cool and easy going which is something you always want for your team.” Finally James Feldeine also chimed in on the addition, “He’s going to help us. He brings a toughness and he’s a defender. You saw what he did against us in Jerusalem. He can score the ball and he’s a team guy. He’s not coming in to ask for the ball and his spot, he’s going to earn it. He’s a good guy and he’s going to try to learn us and we will learn him. Hopefully he helps us and contributes.”
Here is what I had written about Griffin when AEK had defeated Jerusalem at the PAIS Arena: “Malcolm Griffin had a tremendous game and showed his emotions on the final play of the game, a massive dunk and screaming for joy right in front of the TV camera. He could have just ran out the clock but he wanted to show Jerusalem how important the win was for his team, AEK. “I haven’t been the best on my team offensively but to get this win and to finish off the game like that just felt good and I expressed my emotions as the game was over.” That dunk was a statement dunk for Athens, one that says loud and clear that AEK are the defending champions and although Hapoel Jerusalem won on opening day the Champions League title runs through Greece.” Well the title won’t run through Greece as they were bounced by Tyrese Rice and Bamberg. This weekend Bamberg will be joined by Bologna, Tenerife and host Antwerp for Champions League glory as the Final Four takes place in Belgium. The Sports Rabbi will be there and be reporting on site for what should be a great time!