Israel showed no ill effects from a fourth quarter shooting slump against Serbia & Montenegro last night to take an important 85-77 win over Spain, thereby handing them their first loss of the tournament and joining them in a two-way tie atop of the group – for now.
Captain Tal Burstein led by example and finished as his team’s top scorer with 19 points. He was instrumental to Israel’s strong run that saw them open and regularly extend a lead in the second half.
After scoring 27 and 35 points respectively in the first two games, Navarro cooled down considerably and had only nine points on 2 of 10 shooting.
|Tal Burstein led the way for Israel|
After the game, Israel’s head coach Tvzika Shef talked proudly of the way his players bounced back.
“This game was played in very tough conditions. There was a lot of pressure riding on the outcome of this clash and I am extremely proud of how we forgot last night’s game and focused on stopping Spain,” he said.
“We kept Spain in a low scoring game in the first half and after half-time even though they started scoring more, we did too.
The two sides got off to a cold start in a slow and low-scoring first half, but Israel proved to be the fresher and better of the two teams and took a 33-29 lead at intermission.
Spain lacked the offensive fire-power they demonstrated against Latvia in the first half as their trio of Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa and Jose Calderon could not find the target and it was left to forward Felipe Reyes to provide much of the scoring.
Garbajosa had only five first half points but more importantly and to his detriment five of the team’s 12 turnovers.
Both teams found their shooting touch early in the second half, trading baskets for most of the third quarter, with Israel outscoring Spain 32-31 in that period alone.
But while Navarro and Calderon still couldn’t get their offense going, the Israelis were getting points from everyone down the stretch.
Moshe Mizrahi opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer that gave Israel an eight point lead, their biggest of the game until that point.
Israel spread the scoring during the final period and were able to build a 13 point lead before Spain came back within ten.
Garbajosa recovered from his poor first half performance to finish with a team high 21 points but got little help from Navarro and Calderon.
“We wanted to slow their backcourt down and we were able to do just that,” said Israel’s Yotam Halperin.
Both Israel and Spain now await the result of Group D’s last game between Latvia and Serbia & Montenegro and the standings from the other groups to find out where they go from here.
“If we finish third in our group, it looks likely that we will play Greece,” said Sherf looking ahead to the possibility of an elimination game.
“It’s the worst opponent we could go against I feel, but if that is who we have to play to advance, so be it.”
Spain’s coach Mario Pesquera just hopes his players can now rest properly before they play again.
“I think we weren’t able to recover well from our overtime win over Latvia last night. The players were tired and it showed. We didn’t play our best as a consequence of fatigue but we will be ready whatever comes next. We were entitled to one bad game and I think we just had it.”
Spain will aim to remain the only undefeated team in Group D on Sunday and secure an outright place in the quarter-finals when they take on Israel.
Juan Carlos Navarro and Jorge Garbajosa scored 35 and 31 points respectively in a 114-109 overtime win against Latvia last night.
But after the game, Spain’s head coach Mario Pasquera conceded the game was hard fought and could have gone either way.
“We’re happy to have won this game but it wasn’t as easy as many may have expected it to be. Latvia played their usual game and their shots were falling. We made some mistakes and maybe relaxed a bit after taking a 14-point lead in the first quarter, let them get back in the game and it almost cost us the game,” Pasquera said.
|Juan-Carlos Navarro is averaging 31 ppg after 2 games|
Navarro made 22 of 24 foul shots and Garbajosa was a perfect 14 of 14 from the charity stripe as Latvia committed 39 fouls resulting in 63 free throw attempts for Spain.
Felipe Reyes had a solid game with 18 points and 15 rebounds and NBA-bound guard Jose Calderon added 15 points.
The Spaniards may have relaxed a bit against Latvia, but Pasquera will not let the same mistake happen against Israel.
“Israel made it in this tournament because they are a good side. They work hard and they never give up, whatever the score may be. So we’ll have to be on our guards and play as well as we have done these past two games to beat them,” he said.
Israel will try to bounce back from a disappointing second half performance against the host nation Serbia & Montenegro that led to a 93-77 defeat.
Thanks to their opening night win over Latvia, the Israelis currently hold the third place in the group and, should Latvia lose to Serbia & Montenegro, will dispute an elimination game on Tuesday night.
The visitors rarely led in their game against the defending champions, but fought their way back several times from double digit leads to stay within striking distance for most of the first three periods.
However, a 20-0 run in the fourth quarter put the game out of their reach as Israel went without a basket for more than seven minutes.
Israel’s head coach Tzvika Sherf did not fault his players for the fourth quarter meltdown.
“Serbia & Montenegro were the better side late in the game and that’s all there is to it. They deserved to win because they executed better than we did,” Sherf said.
“We had a few problems on the defensive end, keeping their inside players off the boards, but other than that I can’t say anything bad about my players’ display.”
Captain Tal Burstein led the way with 20 points and Yaniv Green had a double double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sherf has no reason to be unhappy with his team’s performance as they finished the game shooting 48 per cent from the field despite the late scoring drought.
“We made last night’s game tough for Serbia & Montenegro for three quarters and then lost our momentum. We need to make sure we can be competitive for the entire game against Spain,” said backup guard Dror Hagag.