By Simon Wilkinson, PA Sport
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.
Navarro and Garbajosa spend much of the night doing their damage from the free-throw line as Latvia got in foul trouble early.
|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.