Fans might not be filling the arena, but everyone understands the high profile challenge, which is coming up. Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv will host Hapoel Jerusalem as part of the top group (Monday, 21:00, live on Sport5 - channel 55). The reds won their first two games since the Corona break as they're standing in second place with a 19:4 record compared to the 21:2 of the Yellow & Blue.
Due to the pandemic, Hapoel Jerusalem lost J'covan Brown and Tashawn Thomas, two key players who led the club in points, index performance (Brown), rebounds, and blocks (Thomas). Shelvin Mack, Mindaugas Kupsas, also didn't rejoin the squad from Jerusalem. Although the moves, Oded Katash still controls a deep roster, including James Feldine, Suleiman Braimoh, John Holland, Tamir Blatt, Nimrod Levi, and Bar Timor. The State Cup holders added Emanuel Terry, Deividas Sirvydis, and ex Maccabi Jeremy Pargo to their league roster.
"It's not unfinished business because it's a process of games. We are playing against a good team, but we are also one, and this game is nice for Israeli basketball", Said head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos before the final practice. "Surprises? I don't believe either team can show something different. How can you expect both teams to surprise each other if both clubs are playing in an unfamiliar and not perfect condition to play basketball?"
"So I don't believe the teams can do something to surprise, we have our philosophy, and they have there's, and we both know each other. Whoever will be better on the court and make fewer mistakes will win the game".
"All league games are important. We respect all of the teams in the Israeli league, and that's why we succeeded so far", Replied Sfairopoulos when asked about the opposition from Jerusalem. "Certainly, we know the importance of playing against them, and we have to play a good game".
"The conditions of playing basketball these days isn't like it used to be before the Coronavirus", Added the greek coach. "We can understand it just from this interview, you're sitting 2 meters from me, and we are wearing masks".
"It's the same when you play basketball. Our rhythm is not where we want it because we, like all other teams, practiced only for three weeks. We are trying to improve, and we are working on our stability to have better performances during the game".
"We don't need a sense of urgency or a sense of motivation, and we know what we want to do. We've been waiting for this game since we heard the news of coming back", Said Tyler Dorsey before the matchup against the second-placed team. "Jerusalem's roster is pretty similar. Those two guys who left were pretty good, they helped their team a lot, but we got to adjust to the new guys that are as good".
"They're playing well, and we just got to be ready, at the end of the day, it's all about us, so we're not focused on what they're doing, so we are just going to come in and be ready".
"It is tough as we have to adjust to a real-life action game with no fans", Answered the guard about playing without fans in the stands. "Growing up, you play scrimmages, pickup games, and there's no fan there, so you are used to it in a way, but not in a real action game".
In the past two league fixtures, Jerusalem beat Maccabi Rishon LeZion twice, 84:78, and then 93:86 as both games took place in the capital. In the first meeting between both squads, the Yellow & Blue won 89:73 in Menora Mivtachim Arena. In the second round, the Reds had the strong hand surpassing Maccabi 98:87 in Jerusalem.
In the all-time matchups, Maccabi holds a commanding 98:25 record against Hapoel, as in Yad Eliyahu, the hosts carry a 55:7 advantage.