Maccabi Haifa battle Hapoel Jerusalem in Friday showdown

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Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Jerusalem on Friday at 2:00 p.m. at RK Arena. The Greens (5-3) earned an impressive win over Nes Ziona at home on Monday, while the Reds of Jerusalem (6-2) edged the Reds of Tel Aviv in their last Israeli Super League game.

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After the blow out loss at Tel Aviv, the Greens managed to rebound with an outstanding defensive performance, defeating Nes Ziona 74-57 to extend their home winning streak to 12 straight games. The MVP of the game was center Reggie Buckner, who registered a double-double on 17 points (7-of-11 from the field) and 13 rebounds as well as 4 blocks. It’s the first time the Green center scored in double figures in the Israeli Super league. Green guard John DiBartolomeo also had an excellent game with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.

“We have a big game tomorrow against Jerusalem, and we will have to be sharp and concentrate throughout the game,” Israeli forward Oz Blayzer said. “I am inviting everybody to come and push the team, like they have done so far in the home games, it give us a strength.”

Maccabi’s defense held Nes Ziona to just 57 points, the lowest amount Haifa has allowed at home, since the second game of 2012-13 season, in a 63-53 win over Hapoel Holon. Maccabi’s bigmen supplied an air tight defense with 14 blocks (Buckner and Blayzer with 4 each and Chubrevich and Rougeau with 3) and set a league season-high. The Greens lead the league with steals per game with an average of 11.0 per game.

The last time Maccabi Haifa beat Jerusalem was in their first game at the new Pais arena in a dramatic 90-88 victory. In the other two games last season, Haifa lost to the Reds in the first game of the season at home as well as the last game of the season at Jerusalem.

Hapoel comes into the game after an 86-82 home win over Galatasaray in the Eurocup. In their last league game, Jerusalem pulled out a fourth quarter comeback in a 81-79 thriller over Hapoel Tel Aviv. Former Green star, Donta Smith, notched 15 points and 5 assists in the win. Smith is having another impressive season, posting averages of 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Lior Eliyahu also had a good game, returning from an injury, with 14 points and 6 rebounds.

Jerusalem coach Danny Franco’s starting five also features D’or Fisher (9.4 points and 5.9 rebound per game) and Yotam Halperin (9.4 points and 3.9 assists) or Matt Jenning.