The Israeli classic, take number 3: Hapoel Jerusalem will host Maccabi Tel Aviv tomorrow (Sunday, 20:30, live broadcast on 5SPORT) for a game that will end the regular season for them, before the opening of the upper house. Both teams are coming with great momentum: Aleksandar Džikić’s team has a streak of 14 wins, while Oded Ketch’s has 9 consecutive wins in all competitions, beating Milan only on the fifth and climbing to 5th place in the Euroleague.
Hapoel Jerusalem enters a week of two big games: tomorrow against Maccabi Tel Aviv and on Tuesday against AAK Athens, in the opening of the BCL quarter-final series. The priority as far as the Jerusalemites are concerned is quite clear, and after the petition regarding bringing the game forward for the day was rejected, it is possible that Džikić will manage minutes differently than usual, to keep the players fresh for Tuesday.
Also because of this, the Serbian coach rotated the foreigners’ roster, with two of the mainstays of the team, Speedy Smith and Levi Randolph, not dressing at all. The five outsiders will be Brandon Brown, Kadin Carrington, Sim Sander and Neh, Marks Myris and Zach Hankins.
There are no surprises in the Maccabi Tel Aviv squad, as the Ketch rotation is quite clear before the big games: the top five foreigners – Lorenzo Brown, Wade Baldwin, Bonzie Colson, Jarel Martin and Josh Niebo – are the ones who will dress tomorrow as well. Darren Hilliard and Suleiman In Raymo are the two able-bodied strangers who don’t dress up.
Maccabi Tel Aviv has already secured first place in the Upper House, while Jerusalem wants to get closer to Hapoel Tel Aviv in second place. Both teams are aware of how crucial being at home in the playoffs can be, especially when the championship is decided in series. If Maccabi Tel Aviv wins tomorrow, they will maintain an advantage of at least one game over Po’el Tel Aviv in second place.
In the two previous meetings this season, Jerusalem was the one that came out with the upper hand: it won at the Hall in the first round of the league and celebrated in the cup final, when in both games it completely controlled the pace. Therefore, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Ketch will come to prove that even at the level of the matchup between the teams, they have something to sell against Dzikic’s Jerusalem.
As mentioned, this match will bring together the two teams with the longest winning streak in the league: Jerusalem has won all of the last eight rounds, Maccabi Tel Aviv in the last seven. The Reds have the best home record in the league (1:9), while the Yellows have the best away record (1:9 ).The leader of the table is the only one in the league that scores over 90 points on average (92.7), while the cup holder is the only one that scores less than 75 points (73.1).