Hapoel Jerusalem: Bringing offensive firepower to the quarter finals of the Basketball Champions League

first_imgNo team in the 2019 Basketball Champions League scores like Hapoel Jerusalem.Of the 32 teams that began the group stage, Hapoel ranked first in points per game at a hefty 89.7. That is a sizeable 4.8 points ahead of second-placed Virtus Bologna; to put that gap into some context, it is larger than the gap between third-placed Venezia (82.8) and nineteenth-placed Nymburk (78.4). Measured by offensive rating, Hapoel’s extremely healthy 119.3 mark ranks second only to the 119.6 mark of Iberostar Tenerife, yet by virtue of playing at a much faster pace (tied for first in the competition at 75.2 with Ludwigsburg’s 75.2, and far ahead of Tenerife’s last-placed 67.5 mark), they have the competition’s most poignant scoring unit. 🔥 @AmareIsReal has been ballin’ (12.8PPG, 5.8RPG, 15.4EFF). How far can STAT take @JerusalemBasket?⁣⠀ #Road2Final4 #BasketballCLA post shared by Basketball Champions League (@basketballcl) on Mar 5, 2019 at 2:28am PSTIn combination, then, Hapoel offer quite the spread of offensive tools.In addition to the scoring and pace, Hapoel also clear the offensive glass well. They sport the second-best mark in the competition in this category at 34.9%, in large part due to the glass-crashing American duo of Josh Owens and Chris Johnson. Owens ranks tenth in the competition in rebounds per game despite playing only 20.8 minutes on average, with 2.3 of his 6.9 boards per contest coming on the offensive end, while former NBA swingman Johnson rebounds extremely well for his position, using his size and athleticism for the position to rake in 2.3 offensive rebounds per game of his own in comparable minutes.As well as being a high-scoring team, this is also a veteran team. Aside from Blatt, the baby of the group at 21, no one else is younger than 26, and only Thomas and little-used bench shooter Bar Timor are even that young. The other nine players in the rotation are all 28 and upwards, including seven aged 30 or older. In the quarter finals, Hapoel took on Neptunas, the Lithuanian team that themselves ranked sixth in pace in the group stages. The Israeli side won both legs of the tie, by a combined margin of 32 points, scoring 86 and 84 points in the two games respectively. Even with an ugly 5-27 three-point shooting performance in the second leg, they still won by 20 points, fuelled by a +10 rebounding differential (including 11 offensive boards) and forcing their opponents to shoot even worse from outside (3-21). Once again, the formula worked.Hapoel will now take on Tenerife, the only team with a better rated offense than themselves, Regardless of the result, we should see a high-quality offensive game, and one that may be played at two different paces. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/e2/60/chris-johnson-jerusalem-bcl_49qlp8xdpjvr1japjjosupmxf.jpg?t=-1083337935&w=500&quality=80 View this post on Instagram Put simply, Hapoel get the ball, and go.The engine that drives this is young Israeli national team point guard Tamir Blatt. David’s son is in his first season with the team, and looks entirely comfortable with the increase in competition level. With excellent passing vision, a good jump shot, a permanently live dribble and the ability to both shoot and pass off that dribble with aplomb, Blatt always keeps an opposing defence guessing.A pass-first playmaking point guard, of course, needs scorers to make plays for. It helps then that he is flanked with gunners from outside. Hapoel ranked fourth in the competition in three-point percentage, shooting a very healthy mark as a team of 38.0%. Veteran James Feldeine is a big part of that mark; hitting 38.8% on his threes, Feldeine is both the on- and off-ball shooting threat that both complements and substitutes for Blatt, with the tandem of them able to change the outcomes of games from outside. Do-it-all forward DaSean Butler helps with his 44.6% three-point shooting, and while he is a bit less judicious with his offensive discipline, J’Covan Brown offers a Feldeine-like microwave role off the bench.There are also playmakers around this shooting back court. Feldeine and Brown both take their turns on the ball, with Feldeine in particular flanking his scoring with some probing, driving and kicking, and veteran reserve guard Yogev Ohayon adding extra surety of ball handling where required.Up front, TaShawn Thomas’s pace and transition game expand the play book that way, while although he is used increasingly rarely in the twilight of his career, Lior Eliyahu’s ability to fashion a foul-line flip shot never left him. And of course, a pick-and-roll passing wiz such as Blatt needs needs who can roll for him. Thomas becomes very effective here, too, as does veteran Amar’e Stoudamire, who looks fresh after a year in retirement. It is impressive, then, that these relatively senior legs get up and down the court as well as they do.More often than not with the most offensively potent teams, there are some disadvantages given back defensively. When measuring points given up by efficiency rather than volume (which is biased towards pace and not reflective of effectiveness within a scheme), the higher scoring units generally rank middle of the pack, or worse. After all, no team can have a roster entirely replete with excellent two-way players, and Blatt in particular is a weak point in the defence that opposing teams routinely key in on.That has not overall been the case with this year’s Hapoel team, though. Measured by defensive efficiency, they ran out as having the sixth-best defence in the competition thus far. Their net rating of +16.4 ranks second, three whole points ahead of the defensive juggernaut that is UCAM Murcia, and only the excellence of Tenerife (+22.0) stands between them and the title of being the best overall team in the competition thus far.Hapoel finished level with defending champion AEK Athens in the group stages, and their split season series against the Greek side was responsible for one of their two losses. The other was an extremely high-scoring game in which defensive lethargy saw the Israeli side give up 101 points to Antwerp. Such anomalies aside, however, Hapoel have showed their potency throughout the group stages, potency they hope to ride all the way to the title.last_img