| Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem took advantage of its home court and grabbed a 67-61 victory over Alba Berlin in the first leg of the Eurocup Quarterfinals on Wednesday night in the Israeli capital. Despite the win, Hapoel will travel next week to Berlin with a gap that could have been much bigger after holding a 19-point lead late in the third quarter. Alba scored 11 points in a row to enter the last quarter down 8. However Hapoel managed to stop the bad momentum and hang on for the win. The final 6-point gap was the closest Alba got since the 14th minute. Pooh Jeter's 2 missed shots from the line with 4.3 seconds on the game clock could play a crucial part in Hapoel's task next week to survive the difference. Alba suffered from a terrible shooting rhythm in the first half and made only 26% from the field, but improved to 40% by the final buzzer, which made a difference. Brandon Hunter shined for Hapoel with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Kevinn Pinkney added 13 points, Tre Simmons scored 12 and Dijon Thompson finished with 10 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Alba got 17 points on 70% accuracy from Derrick Byars and 14 from Blagota Sekulic.
Hapoel sent a clear message from the start and took a 9-2 lead after three minutes as four players got on the scoring sheet. Julius Jenkins was active and got Alba moving, but turnovers allowed Hapoel to finish a fast break with a Thompson layup and take a 13-6 lead, forcing Alba's first timeout. Hapoel's pressure on the ball continued to result in turnovers, but Jenkins was first on a loose ball and hit Alba's first three-pointer to beat the shot clock and make it 15-9. Hapoel got in a groove of turnovers itself and before the first-quarter buzzer the game's total already reached 12, but it worked in favor of Hapoel's to lead 16-11 after 10 minutes. Both sides missed open shots early in the second quarter and it took three-and-a-half minutes before Hunter scored an open layup to break the drought. Dragan Dojcin with a left-handed drive put Alba's first points in the second quarter on the board, only to see Simmons's shot bounce on the rim three times before going in at the other end. Hapoel got lucky once again when Pinkney was forced to take a tough three to beat the shot clock, but hit it to make the first double-digit gap in the game, 23-13. Good defense on the ball by Hunter and Simmons forced another turnover and the big man added 2 more points, but was far from done. A pick-and-roll play with Jeter finished with a big dunk by Hunter and on his missed free throw first was Thompson, leading to a Jeter three and a 30-15 lead right before the halftime break. Alba's poor shooting forced the disturbing situation in the first half, but to make things a bit more cheerful in the locker room, Byars hit a three to set the gap on 30-18 at the half.
Thompson was on fire right after the break and hit twice from downtown to set the gap at 36-21. Hunter drew an unsportsmanlike foul and soon Jenkins committed his third foul, only to see Naimy finish a fast break to make it 41-21 only three minutes inside the second half. Before it was too late, Alba scored 6 points around the rim and forced a timeout by the hosts, who didn't regain focus. Thompson had a chance for an open dunk, but lost control off the ball, yet Alba missed a chance to cut the gap even more with another turnover only to see Pinkney complete a three-point play at the other end. Simmons scored his first three of the game to extend the lead back to 49-30. Before it was too late, Alba woke up and scored 11 points in a row led by big plays on both ends by Byars and Steffen Hamann at 49-41 in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Hapoel came back in the last quarter ready to protect its lead, but saw a tough opponent at the other end. Alba missed a chance to cut on the lead with more missed shots and scored only 4 points in the first five minutes of the quarter. Hunter came through and made it 57-45. Jenkins attacked the rim and Byars added another from the perimeter to cut the margin to 59-52 with less than three minutes on the game clock, but Simmons with a big drive pushed it back to 9. Sekulic was active on the offensive board and his tip-in cut it back to 7, yet Hapoel had the better finish. Hunter scored twice from the line and Thompson came out of nowhere to steal on one side and tip-in a Jeter miss at the other to set the gap again on 11. Jenkins wasn't about to give up yet and with less than 40 seconds to play drove to the rim to complete a big three point play. Hapoel was ready to reply, but Hunter was called for an off-the-ball offensive foul and left Alba 30 seconds to answer. A pick-and-roll between Rashad Wright and Sekulic finished with a big dunk by the latter and 10 seconds on the clock. Jeter speed down the floor and drew a foul, but missed both shots which could be crucial for next week.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010