It's playoff time. After finishing an excellent regular-season with 24 wins compared to 4 losses, the reigning Israeli champions Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv will continue their quest to defend their title hosting Hapoel Tel Aviv in Menora Mivtachim Arena, as part of the Israeli league quarterfinals (Saturday, 21:00, live on Sport5 - channel 55). The winner of the 3 game set will clinch a spot in the semi-finals, as they'll face the winner between Hapoel Holon and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in Yad Eliyahu.
"We start our journey in the playoffs as these are different type of games compared to the regular season matchups". Said, head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos, who later added: "In the regular season we did an excellent job finishing in first place despite injuries, despite missing players before and after the Coronavirus. We proved we deserved finishing in first. We have a vital series and an important game versus Hapoel Tel Aviv. We respect them, they are a determined team, and we need to be concentrated, stick to our gameplan, and carry the game to situations we'd prefer".
Jake Cohen, spoke before the start of the playoffs: "We've gone through a lot to reach this point. A lot of hardship, difficult moments to come to these playoffs, and now it's time we can validate it and make it all worthwhile. Personally, the last thing I'd want to do is end this season on a bad note. I think we deserve the title, we've done a great job this year, we've fought through a lot as a team - injuries, and then Corona. Now we have an opportunity to take a title".
The Yellow & Blue came on top of the Reds in all three meetings this season. The first head to head was in the "Winner" Cup quarterfinals, as Maccabi dominated Hapoel 87:67 in Shlomo Group Arena. Omri Casspi was in command scoring 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 33 index points. The second matchup came in week 10, as the Yellow & Blue beat the Reds 91:84 on the road. In the final contest between both clubs, the reigning champions won 84:74, as 7 of their players finished the night in double figures.
Hapoel Tel Aviv finished the regular season in the 8th spot with a 13:16 record. In the final regular-season fixture as part of the bottom table, the Reds lost 105:106 to the last-placed Maccabi Ashdod in overtime. Since the return from the corona break, Hapoel won 5 out of their last 8 games. Maccabi holds a 15 game playoff win streak against Hapoel. Last season, Giannis Sfairopoulos's squad swept the Reds in the quarterfinals 3:0 on its way on winning their 53rd Israeli league title.