First leg thrashing puts Jerusalem in a corner
Hapoel Jerusalem's return to the Tartar capital was less painful than the 53-point blowout it suffered last year, but the 88-66 beating by Unics Kazan was of little comfort to head coach Guy Goodes. "We know Unics as a very strong team," said Goodes after the loss. "Unics deserves to play in the EuroLeague."
That statement is likely prophetic as Jerusalem will now have to beat Kazan by 23 points when the two teams meet next Tuesday in the Malkha stadium.
It is hard for Jerusalem to compete with the Russians' 20 million euro payroll, the fourth highest in their league, but the heart of the problem yesterday was a lack of team play.
The team made only seven assists the entire game, compared to 17 for Unics. Hapoel was also a miserable 10 percent from beyond the arc.
Unics took a double-digit lead in the first quarter, as Moran Roth got into early foul trouble. Goodes then switched to a three-guard lineup including Roth, Timmy Bowers and Yuval Naimy - who scored 11 points off the bench. The smaller lineup kept Hapoel in the game for about 30 minutes.
However, Unics figured out how to exploit Hapoel's defense in the fourth quarter, putting away Jerusalem in the final 3:29 with a 14-6 run. Hapoel also hurt its cause at the free throw line, too, making just 19 of 31 (61.3%) compared to a 13-of-16 (81.3%) effort by Unics.