Hapoel Jerusalem visits one of the Eurocup’s most dominant home teams in Valencia on Tuesday in Game 1 of its best-of-three semifinal series.
Valencia’s record at the Fuente de San Luis Arena has made it one of the competition’s most successful teams, with the Spaniards claiming the title in 2010 and 2014 and reaching the semifinals twice in between.
By going 6-0 in the Top 16, Valencia earned home-court advantage in the series, with Game 3, if necessary, to be held in Spain next Wednesday after Game 2 will be played in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon.
Hapoel, which is playing in the semifinals for the first time since 2006, has to win in Valencia in order to have a chance of reaching the final, but as daunting as that mission may seem, Jerusalem enters the series brimming with confidence, and for good reason.
Valencia and Jerusalem have faced each other six times in the past, including two showdowns in this year’s Eurocup regular season. The home team won only once in those six games, with Valencia leading the all-time series 4-2. This season, Jerusalem recorded an 81-77 road win in Valencia in its regular season opener.
Valencia bounced back with a 13-game winning streak in the competition, including an 86-84 triumph in Jerusalem.
Hapoel had fond memories from Valencia even before this season, with a 79-74 road win in 2009/10 to hand Valencia its first home loss in competition history – after 33 wins and a tie.
“Valencia is a really good team that has been playing great over the course of the season,” said Jerusalem center Amar’e Stoudemire, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win in Valencia.
“We have to make sure that we come out with extreme focus to get the win. I think that if we compete at a high level and play our style of basketball, we have a great chance of winning.”
Valencia is one of the best defensive teams in the competition, allowing just 73.8 points per game, compared to Jerusalem’s 79.4.
Hapoel leads the Eurocup in lowest three-point shooting percentage allowed (32.2%), while it is also one of the best three-point shooting teams in the competition (38.9%).
“We worked very hard to reach the semifinals and in my opinion Valencia is the best team in the competition,” said veteran Israeli guard Yotam Halperin. “We are entering the series as an underdog and we have to make sure we use that to our advantage.”
Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin