Israel was eliminated from Eurobasket play after falling in overtime 104-91 to Georgia. The Blue & White led for over 32 minutes but didn’t lead when it counted most, when the final buzzer sounded. Gal Mekel scored 23 points, Rich Howell dropped 19, while Omri Casspi finished the evening with 16 points of his own. At the other end Georgia received an all world performance by Tornike Shengelia who scored 25 points and pulled down 19 rebounds add to that Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia who dropped 19 points and grabbed 11 boards and Micheal Dixon who arguably scored the biggest 3 point shots of the night ended the evening with 18 points and 7 assists.
1) Game. Set. Match. Israel has been eliminated from the Eurobasket Tournament. At Home. Before the final group stage game in Tel Aviv. Shame.
What else can you say. Was it Howell fouling out? Was it being outrebounded? Was it Shawn Dawson starting and performing poorly yet again? It’s all of the above plus the fact that Georgia was just that much better. Israel led for most of the game, but gave up that advantage near the end of regulation and was lucky that they even made it into overtime as the lack of foul calls on the final Georgia missed layup attempt played to their favor. All in all Israel performed as best as they could against a team that featured an incredible evening by Toko Shengelia to go along with Zaza Pachulia plus Michael Dixon who drained two clutch 3-pointers to take an 89-87 lead in regulation and put Georgia ahead for good early on in overtime.
2) All tournament long Israel struggled in a number of crucial areas. 3-pointers were again an Achilles heal as Israel shot 3/16 from beyond the arc which is unacceptable when you are going up against a team that had a massive advantage inside. So massive that Georgia outrebounded Israel by 50(!)-22. That is absolutely incredible. Israel had zero inside presence over the course of the tournament and this especially came to the forefront in the loss. Somehow Israel as a basketball country has to be able to work on 3-pointers like other countries do and use it as a weapon especially when thy are undersized in the paint. Shooting 3’s has to be implemented within the basketball curriculum at a young age. You may not be able to teach size but you can definitely teach skills.
3) Israel did have some highlights over the course of the tournament and that was the play of Richard Howell. The Hapoel Jerusalem center was dominant in almost all aspects of the game whether it was scoring inside, rebounding and forcing the opponents to change up their shots. The naturalized Israeli was all over the court and cared about every single possession as of it was his last. Howell went out in the 3rd quarter when he was hit pretty hard and went down to the lockerroom to be examined by the doctor who determined he had a concussion. He came back and made a couple of buckets but picked up his final fouls and ended his night to a standing ovation by the close to 10K fans that filled Yad Eliyahu. Jerusalem has a gem, a real gem and one that will continue to improve the more he is polished.
Even though Shengelia and Pachulia were the stars of the show, Michael Dixon really was a floor general in the full sense of the word. Whether it was scoring or helping others find the basket. Georgia’s Head Coach Illias Zouros spoke about Dixon and what he has meant to his team: “Last year when Mike joined the team, we knew what he could do especially in crucial moments. Last season against Montenegro on the road he was really great and helped us qualify in the group. He knows his role and today he tried very hard but I must say that I wasn’t satisfied defensively but he helped us a lot with his personality, good reading of plays and making good passes while of course scoring in crucial moments.”
“Everyone watched a big game at a very high level. I’m very disappointed that we lost but it was a big time big game and I was proud to be a part of it.”
About 3-point shooting:
“You have to create plays to get open 3-point shots, you need to train players who will specifically be shooters from a young age. The style of play in this tournament wasn’t one where 3-pointers were going to be the key.”
“We ran out of gas in overtime and made shots all night. It’s a tough night for us. We obviously came up short and are disappointed. We certainly failed as we wanted to advance. We played a tough team and we had a chance to go on to Turkey today and it just didn’t happen.”