Basketball / Playoffs / Too Easy for Maccabi Tel Aviv

Hapoel Tel Aviv opens promotion bid with tough win.

Maccabi Tel Aviv stormed into a 2-0 lead in its Super League quarterfinal playoff against Habikaa with a 101-66 win at Nokia arena last night. In the other end-of-season playoff game, Maccabi Ashdod upset Galil/Gilboa 75-69.

Having won the Adriatic League title last week, Tel Aviv left no doubt they are by far the best team in Israel. David Blatt's charges raced to a 16-point lead at the end of the first quarter, with Lior Eliyahu, David Blu and Keith Langford scoring at will. The rest of the game was essentially garbage time as Maccabi kept increasing its lead. By half time they led 58-27.

Lior Eliyahu
Sefi Megrisso

The game was so one-sided that Blatt allowed himself the luxury of introducing youngsters Arad Harari and Idan Zalmanson toward the end of the game - and both repaid the gesture by putting points on the board.

Altogether, seven Maccabi players scored in double figures.

With the prize of promotion to the Super League at stake, Hapoel Tel Aviv had to work hard for its 84-78 win over Be'er Ya'akov in the first game of the second-tier National League playoff. Hapoel, for years the second-best team in Israel but in recent years fallen on hard times, opened strongly and led at the end of the first quarter 27-19, with 10 points from its excellent point guard Gal Eitan.

But Jermaine Hall and Nate Miller were outstanding for the visitors in the second period as Be'er Ya'akov narrowed the gap to 44-42 at half-time.

Be'er Ya'akov maintained the momentum and took a 61-56 lead by the end of the third period, and with five minutes left were still five points ahead. But Hapoel has determined fans, and the 1,400 spectators at Hadar Yosef arena lifted them through the closely-fought end.

Once Hall fouled out, Eitan, who finished with 22 points, seized the opportunity to sink a vital three-pointer as Hapoel built a lead that it held until the final buzzer.

The second game in the five-game series is on Thursday.