Flat Showdown Spells Trouble for Israeli Basketball

The poorly played and attended match-up between two of Israel's top basketball teams, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa, suggests the league is in bad shape.

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The Super League basketball game between Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Eilat Sunday should have been an exciting showdown between Israel's second and third best teams. But what actually happened on the court in Haifa says a lot about what's wrong with professional basketball here.

Second-ranked Maccabi Haifa, in the midst of an uninspired season with a wildly mediocre roster, is making a joke of the league on a weekly basis without breaking a sweat. Its 96-87 victory over third-ranked Hapoel Eilat was no exception.

The game was decided entirely by individual plays, disparities in talent, ugly mistakes and poor shooting percentages. If these are the two best teams in the league after perennial powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, with the two leading coaches after Maccabi Tel Aviv's David Blatt, the situation is indeed desperate.

Haifa didn't win because it played smarter than Hapoel Eilat on offense. It didn't win because its coach Brad Greenberg outsmarted his counterpart Oded Katash. It didn't win because its defense cleverly shut down Hapoel Eilat's ingenious offense.

The game was run-'n'-gun with Maccabi Haifa doing better from behind the arc – making 8 of 19 attempts compared to Hapoel Eilat's 5 of 20. It just happened to win, because, well, that's how it happened. Maccabi Haifa may have won, but Israeli basketball lost on Sunday night.

The awful shape of the Super League was also reflected in the stands. The meeting of two top teams in a sparkling new arena should inspire fans to turn up, yet the seats were empty.

At a press conference at the beginning of the season, Commissioner Edli Markus pledged that the league would do everything in its power to avoid scheduling its games at the same time as soccer games, especially those involving clubs with both basketball and soccer teams, like Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa.

Yet during Sunday's game, hardcore Maccabi Haifa were shuttling down to Ramat Gan to watch their soccer team continue its race up the Premier League standings. The basketball team was left with the support of children whose mothers wouldn’t let them travel on a school night.

It's a bad sign when even the good games are bad.Credit: Nimrod Glickman

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