Portugal appear to be on track towards qualifying for a EuroBasket for the first time since 1951 as they improved to 3-0 in Group B qualifying following a 67-61 victory over Israel.
Joao Santos was the offensive hero for Valentyn Melnychuk’s men, and Israel did themselves in by committing four turnovers in a row on their last four possessions of the game.
Dror Hagag made one of two free throws with 1:28 to go in the game to put Israel up 61-60, marking the last they would get a shot in the game.
Portugal turned the ball over on their next possession as Miguel Miranda threw an errant pass, but Israel could not capitalize as Yotam Halperin was called for traveling.
Santos then drilled a three-pointer with 41 seconds remaining to put Portugal ahead 63-61.
Jaime Arnold’s bad pass went out of bounds and Zvi Sherf’s side were forced to foul in order to stop the clock.
Miguel Minhava made a pair of free throws with 20 seconds to go, bringing the tally to 65-61.
On Israel’s ensuing possession, Miranda intercepted Hagag’s pass and scored a lay-up in transition with nine seconds remaining as Portugal went up 67-61.
Israel, in desperation mode to comeback, committed their fourth consecutive turnover when Minhava picked off Halperin’s pass just before the final buzzer.
The final margin of six points was the biggest lead either team would hold throughout the entire game as both countries went back and forth for 40 minutes of play.
Paulo Cunha led Portugal in scoring with 17 points, while Halperin was the high man for Israel with 16.
Portugal, which finished 1-5 in EuroBasket 2005 qualifying, will look to win their fourth straight when they take on FYR of Macedonia on Saturday.
Israel has now lost two straight and will attempt to snap the streak when they play against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday.