Maccabi Tel Aviv ran into the Hapoel Jerusalem bulldozer on Sunday night at the Jerusalem Arena. The Yellow & Blue were absolutely dismantled by Hapoel Jerusalem after losing badly on Friday night at Red Star Belgrade in Serbia. Not exactly the performances that Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos wanted to see.
How come you ask? Let’s take a look at some of those reasons with the help of Captain Jake Cohen and Coach Sfairopoulos.
Jerusalem shot lights out from the get go with 9 triples in 10 chances during the first quarter and knocked Maccabi out before they even got into the game. “Very disappointing loss,” explained Cohen. “We were punched in the mouth from the start and we were on our back feet. They took a big lead and we couldn’t come back. The last two games we weren’t good and we have time to correct that as it’s only March.”
Cohen continued about the rivalry against the Reds, “They’ve beaten us a couple of times this year, but to be honest I don’t think anyone in the team thinks that way. I don’t care if we are the favorites or underdogs. I try to play as hard as I can to win the game whether we’ve beaten them before or they’ve beaten us before, those aren’t factors that enter my mind. It’s irrelevant. What happened tonight we can get better from and when we play Jerusalem in the third round or the playoffs, I’m going to try to beat them just as I did tonight.”
The coach looked at the defensive end of Maccabi’s game, “We didn’t play good defense these past two games. This isn’t an excuse but reality as this was our 3rd game in 5 days and these games are very demanding.” Sfairopoulos makes a good point about the amount of games that his squad had to play and perhaps there was also a drop off after the club advanced to the Euroleague playoffs last Wednesday at home against EFES. This is just natural as the coach explained, “Maybe this is also one reason. I don’t believe that we relaxed but it’s normal as the players are human beings and they felt happiness after advancing to the playoffs for the first time in five years. It’s not easy to be concentrated just after one or two days. Maybe this is also a small part as to why we weren’t very aggressive and didn’t play good defense. We will overcome this.”
However, a main reason is also the concern surrounding the Coronavirus and the uncertainty as Cohen said, “Of course I have concerns, it’s something I’ve never experienced before. We are just trying to do our job and we are trying to do the best we can. I’m sure it affected it some way.”
The Davidson product continued when I asked about how he sees the season being played out both in Europe and Israel, “I don’t know if there’s a good way to answer that question. We’ll do what we can and do our best. It’s unprecedented, I don’t know really what to say, we have a job to do and we’re going to try and do it. I wish I had something better for you but it’s not something we can overcome with teamwork. It’s a sickness it’s disease, hopefully no one gets it and gets contained. We can keep going about our lives and keep playing this game we love but it’s a serious thing and it’s needs to be taken seriously. I don’t know, I’m sorry.”