Israel claimed a dramatic 102-92 win in overtime against Luol Deng and Great Britain in the EuroBasket qualifying opener for both sides on Wednesday.
Britain, who only secured Deng's NBA release on Saturday after being forced to spend a substantial sum on his insurance, got a game-high 30 points from their Chicago Bulls star but a heart-breaking end to regulation cost the team victory in Tel Aviv.
A pair of Deng free throws with 28 seconds remaining had given Chris Finch's team an 84-83 lead and after an Israeli timeout, Meir Tapiro was off target with an attempt from behind the three-point arc and Great Britain rebounded before calling a timeout.
When play resumed, Tapiro fouled Nate Reinking with three seconds remaining.
The American-born British guard made the first attempt to increase the lead to 85-83 but missed the second. Reinking was then whistled for a foul on Tapiro with just one second left.
The 33-year-old Tapiro calmly sank both free throws to tie the game at 85-85 and force overtime.
|Lior Eliyahu had 24 points for Israel|
But after Brit Flinder Boyd converted just one of two at the charity stripe to make it 91-91, Yaniv Green hit a jumper to put the Israelis in front for good.
Matan Naor added a free throw and Moran Roth buried a three for a 97-91 advantage with 1:01 to play.
Israel ended up winning by 10, a margin of victory that could prove decisive if Britain win the second meeting and a tie-breaker is needed to determine the order of finish between the two sides.
The top two sides from each group qualify for the EuroBasket.
The Israelis will be thrilled with the win because they have had such a hard time in their last two EuroBasket qualifying campaigns that they needed to win the Additional Qualifying Tournament just to reach the final round.
Now they have enjoyed the perfect start, while Britain have suffered an agonising defeat.
Britain opened up a 35-25 lead in the second quarter but Israel's excellent Lior Eliyahu reeled off six straight points to bring the home side back.
The hosts still trailed 47-42 at half-time but ended up going in front 77-71 with just under seven minutes remaining before Britain stormed back.
The game was not decided until the overtime.
Tapiro finished with 27 points and Eliyahu 24. For Britain, Joel Freeland, a 2006 NBA draft pick by the Portland Trail Blazers, had 14 points and nine rebounds.
When Britain look back at the defeat, they will know that missed free throws undermined their cause.
They finished 19 of 30 (63.3%), with Pops Mensah Bonsu zero for four, Jarrett Hart zero for two and Boyd two of four.
The biggest miss came from Reinking with just three seconds remaining. He finished three of four at the stripe.
Israel were 29 of 38 (76.3%) at the line.
Finch's team had 19 turnovers to just 15 for Israel.
Both sides shot the ball well from long range. Each team made nine three-balls.