04 October, 2022
14 May, 2023
4 Speedy Smith (JLM)
Game Report
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No 20-point AEK comeback this time: Speedy Smith lifts Jerusalem to 1-0

JERUSALEM (Israel) - Coach Aleksandar Dzikic has converted Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem into a defensive force this season, and the Israeli State Cup winners proved it in the first game of the Quarter-Finals, holding AEK to below 60 points.

It finished 64-55, putting Jerusalem just one game away from their first ever appearance at a Basketball Champions League Final 4. Game 2 will be played in Athens, Greece next week, while a potential Game 3 would take place in Jerusalem.

Turning point:
AEK trailed by 22 points early on in the game, but if this campaign taught us anything, it's that the Queen is capable of comebacks from such deficits. After all, they had two 20+ point comebacks in the BCL in 2022-23, including the largest ever from -25 to win the game against Pinar Karsiyaka.

Led by Kenny Williams, AEK climbed back step by step and even got to within a point on two instances. But, with Jerusalem leading 56-53 midway through the fourth quarter, Speedy Smith decided there will be no history repeating.

Smith put together an assist and six straight points, all of them coming as daggers late on the shot clock to completely drain AEK's energy late in the game. There was no drama in the end.

Game hero: Speedy Smith had a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Jerusalem were a +8 team with him on the floor, as he won the matchups against all AEK guards on the night.

Stats don't lie: Defense was the name of the game. Hapoel had 12 steals to AEK's six, five blocks, to AEK's two, and it led to a 20-13 edge in points from turnovers and 11-2 in fast break points.

Bottom line: Hapoel protected their homecourt advantage and they are now a step closer to the Semi-Finals. Levi Randolph was also in double digits with 12 points, while Or Cornelius deserves a mention for his 8 points and a number of high energy plays.

AEK need to bounce back at home to force the deciding game in Jerusalem. The good news is that Kenny Williams is capable of lighting it up with 18 points against such tough defense, but the bad news is he had no company in double digits, other than Akil Mitchell's stellar performance of 12 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.

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