Stats Don't Lie: In the third period, Israel shot 12-for-15 and hit four three-pointers. Belgium were 6-of-16 and drew a blank from long-range. If only the Israelis had showed this kind of élan in their opening three games, they might not have fallen into such a hole.
Game Hero: Afik Nissim had 11 of his game-best 23 points inside the first five minutes of the third quarter, sparking an 8-0 run that took Israel clear and they never looked back.
|"We have to cross our fingers now for a couple of teams and then look to do our job against Germany. Maybe after starting 0-3, we can make it" - Yotam Halperin|
Israel secured their first victory at EuroBasket 2013, defeating Belgium 87-69 in Ljubljana to ensure they will go into the final day's play in the first round with at least a slender hope of progressing from Group A.
A torrid third quarter spell tamed the Lions, who were out-scored 25-7 in a high-octane stretch with Afik Nissim the ringmaster of their circus.
However both will have to re-group and re-focus for Monday with only Germany already eliminated from contention among the six teams in the pool.
Israel's fate is not in their own hands.
"We're still not there," said Yotam Halperin, who had 14 points. "We have to cross our fingers now for a couple of teams and then look to do our job against Germany. Maybe after starting 0-3, we can make it."
At least, he could reflect on an improved showing. In a tight competitive first quarter, the Belgians were ahead only briefly at the outset, but even when Israel led 41-33 at half-time, there was little to separate the sides.
Then Nissim took aim and let fly, and everyone else followed suit. "Offensively, we reacted very well to their kind of defence with the hedges and traps and zone that they've been doing," Israeli coach Arik Shivek said.
"We were shooting the ball very well. We took very good shots, actually the same shots we took against Great Britain and Ukraine but fortunately for us, and unfortunately for them, they went in."
One after another. By the end of the third period, their lead had stretched to 73-49. And although Maxime De Zeeuw hit all of his team-best 14 points in the fourth, it was far too late, leaving Belgium to prepare for what could be a must-win game with France on Monday.
They will be favourites, said coach Eddy Casteels. "But I know my team and we know that even if they have a 3% chance, they never give up. They never stop believing. The only thing we have to do is create the same game that Israel had against us today. If the shot falls, you never know.
"On the second day we created amazing surprises against the team that beat France, so you never know. The game is all open."