Israeli-American Pacer chips in as Indiana downs Maccabi Haifa
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Israeli-American Pacer chips in as Indiana downs Maccabi Haifa

T.J. Leaf knocks in seven points to help Pacers hand Israeli team latest loss in NBA exhibition matchup

Maccabi Haifa's Ángel Rodríguez (3) makes a pass in front of Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis (11) during the first half of an NBA exhibition basketball game in Indianapolis, October 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Maccabi Haifa's Ángel Rodríguez (3) makes a pass in front of Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis (11) during the first half of an NBA exhibition basketball game in Indianapolis, October 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Pacers rookie forward T.J. Leaf faced off against a team from his native Israel in exhibition play Tuesday, helping Indiana keep Maccabi Haifa winless in 15 games against NBA teams.

Leaf notched seven points and two rebounds during 18 minutes on the floor, shooting 43 percent from the field, as the Pacers easily handled the visiting Haifa team 108-89.

Leaf, the son of former Israeli basketball star Brad Leaf, was picked by the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA draft in June, becoming the third Israeli to make it to basketball’s big leagues in the US.

T.J. Leaf reacts after being drafted 18th overall by the Indiana Pacers during the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 22, 2017 in New York City. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP)

Most of the attention during the game was on Pacers starter Victor Oladipo, who received a roaring ovation in his home debut in Indianapolis.

Before the start, Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters he was fine-tuning his lineups and rotations for next week’s season opener.

Former NBA player Josh Smith scored 16 points to lead Maccabi.

Maccabi, which has never beaten an NBA team in 15 tries, will have another shot against the Portland Trailblazers on Friday.

“First of all, when you play an NBA team you pray — that is the game plan,” Maccabi Haifa coach Offer Rahimi said. “Seriously, I tried. I tried a lot of lineups.”

Leaf, a UCLA standout, was born in Tel Aviv and lived there the first two years of his life while his father Brad Leaf, who was also drafted by the Pacers in 1982 but never joined the team, played in the Israeli premier league.

Brad Leaf spent 17 years in Israel, playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Galil Elyon and winning the league MVP award once.

In 2015, T.J. Leaf played for the Israel national Under-19 team, an experience he said helped mature him as a player.

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