Hapoel Jerusalem doesn't have much going for it; team is characterized by what it lacks - discipline, order, cameraderie, etc. This time, with the opening of the Winner League semifinal playoff series on Monday, it lacked the minor detail of a game plan. Hapoel Jerusalem heard time and again, all the way to the semifinal, about the qualitative advantage it holds over Maccabi Tel Aviv - its powerful front line.
Against Maccabi's Shawn James, an excellent player whose form has wilted as the season draws, and who doesn't receive enough help on defense from Lior Eliyahu, Darko Planinic and Nik Caner-Medley, Jerusalem knew it had an advantage. Elishay Kadir has looked dangerous recently, Samardo Samuels seems threatening and Josh Duncan has earned the ultimate compliment: interest from Maccabi Tel Aviv. What did Sharon Drucker do with all these pluses? Zilch. He opened with his regular starting five, leaving Samuels on the bench. He told his charges to cut inside, but couldn't squeeze even one foul out of James in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, open play was completely ignored and Jerusalem managed its first three-pointer in only the 24th minute. James was excellent, while Eliyahu - who all season long has looked like a shadow of himself - went back to being the best Israeli player in the league. In the second half Drucker gave up completely and let his players do whatever they wanted. That, apparently, is what they call a game plan in Jerusalem. Maccabi won the game 91-73. This could have been predicted from Drucker's reaction at the end of the fifth game of Jerusalem's quarterfinal series with Barak Netanya.
"Maccabi is Maccabi," the coach said in self-defense when asked whether his team has a chance against this season's faltering yellow machine. Hapoel Jerusalem doesn't want to consider itself the favorite and makes no real effort to change this situation. To the regret of anyone who seeks a little action in this dull and predictable league, it appears that Jerusalem is prepared to rest on its laurels and be satisfied with what it has achieved so far this season. If it loses to Maccabi then no one will have any complaints. Instead of taking the opportunity and doing its best, it only excels against weaker teams, such as Netanya. This is how a team and a coach who don't really want to succeed look. But don't worry - Drucker will tell you this season has been a tremendous success.
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