Hapoel Tel Aviv Eschews Height for Textbook Basketball

While Tel Aviv is showing the stamp of its coach by moving the ball around, rival Hapoel Jerusalem has failed to gel.

Hapoel Tel Aviv’s victory over Hapoel Jerusalem in the State Cup quarterfinal Thursday night was a victory of a well-coached team over talented players held together by weak glue.

In the past few weeks, Hapoel Tel Aviv has played textbook basketball with its flowing transition game. It has also exploited advantages and compensated for its shortcomings.

Jerusalem has a lot more height, but it was Tel Aviv that scored 12 points in the paint in the first quarter and finished the half with 12 assists versus three. Height is important, but ball movement and off-the-ball moves are even better for producing scoring situations.

Early in the season, coaches often say their teams need time to gel. Many of them don’t do much with the allotted time. Erez Edelstein, Hapoel Tel Aviv’s head coach, used the time between the beginning of October and the end of December to turn his team into a lethal unit. If you want to see what it means to see a coach’s fingerprints, take a look at footage from Thursday night’s game.

Both teams suffer from a roster imbalance. Tel Aviv is deficient inside, while Jerusalem’s backcourt is lacking. Because basketball is a game of guards, Jerusalem lost a shot at the State Cup. If it doesn’t add a guard who can make a significant contribution, Jerusalem will miss out on more than one title this season.

The story of the game, and the difference between the teams, can be summarized in Lior Elyahu, Hapoel Jerusalem’s big man. Eliyahu has yet to shed the rust he accumulated during his extended break – he didn’t play this season until this month, when he signed with his new team. Most of his field goal attempts Thursday came after a lengthy show – too many dribbles and too much effort.

At Maccabi Tel Aviv, Eliyahu scored most of his points either from the open court or after he was moving without the ball. In other words, his points stemmed from team play. At Jerusalem, almost every play he made was individual. As a result, he made just two of his 11 field goal attempts.

On the other side played a much more limited tall guy, Josh Evans. But he finished the game with 17 points and nowhere near foul trouble. He scored most of his baskets from the paint after his teammates fed him with a teaspoon. That’s how it works when you play on the right team.

Sharon Bukov