By Simon Wilkinson, PA Sport
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.
Both teams now have to wait for the result between the host nation and Latvia to find out who will get a guaranteed place in the quarter-finals and which teams will have to play in the elimination games.
|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.”