Hapoel Tel Aviv overcame a career night from Lemesos guard Duane Woodward to open the series against the Cypriot champions with a home win.
Woodward turned in a one-man show for Lemesos, scoring a season high 38 points on 12/18 shooting from the field and 13/16 from the free throw line. Unfortunately his team-mates were not able to provide much help, and other than Davorin Dalipagic, who scored 14 points, only 3 other players were able to get on the scoresheet.
Tel Aviv led after the first quarter and stayed in the driver’s seat throughout the game. They relied on their frontcourt for scoring as Jasmin Hukic, Michael Wright, Virginijus Praskevicius and Yaniv Green combined for 65 of the team’s 87 points.
Tel Aviv point guard Dror Hagag was the smallest player on the court at just 180 cm. He was almost the most influential, dishing 10 assists and earning game MVP honours.
Woodward’s 38 points represented 57% of his team’s total output and the Lemesos guard will be little comforted by the fact that it is the top scoring game of this season’s FEL.
EKA Lemesos are still being talked about as the surprise of the FIBA Europe League, and after losing their opening 4 games, nobody expected them to make a play-off appearance. But the Cypriot side and 2003 FIBA Europe Regional Challenge champions produced a 6 game win streak that put them back on track for the post season. Among others, they recorded defeats over Hemofarm Vrsac, Bc Khimki and group winners Anwil Wloclawev to prove to any doubters that they deserved a spot in the league.
Led by one of the strongest front courts in the competition, Hapoel have looked like a lock for the play-offs since the opening game back in October. They finished with a 10:4 record, including the distinction of being the only side to defeat Ural Great at home.
|Duane Woodward is the FEL's top points man|
Hapoel Tel Aviv are longtime regulars in European club competition. Last season they participated in the FIBA Europe Champions Cup, making it all the way to the play-offs before succumbing to Hemofarm Vrsac in 2 games.
Hapoel’s front court of Yaniv Green, Jasmin Hukic, Virginijus Prasekivicius and Michael Wright is arguably the strongest among all teams. Lemesos also relies on 2 forwards for the majority of their points in the FEL’s leading scorer Duane Woodward (21.5 ppg) and Serbian Milutan Aleksic (17.5 ppg).
The match-up between these 2 groups may well be a telling factor in the outcome of the series.
At 14.1 three-point attempts per game (2nd last among all teams) Hapoel do not rely on the long range shot as a main weapon. However, when they choose to shoot the three, they are the second most accurate team in the FEL, hitting 41.1% of all three-pointers.
As well as neutralising this threat, Lemesos will have to step up on the boards as they are last among all teams in rebounding at 26.3 rpg.