If Israel’s National Basketball team was seeking to gain some momentum ahead of next month’s EuroBasket 2015 tournament, it did not succeed this past weekend, losing a pair of games to Serbia at Yad Eliyahu Arena to fall to 0-5 on the summer.
The first of the two games went to the visitors by a score 85-70. Nemanja Nedovic led all Eagle scorers with 16 points. Israel was paced in the losing effort by Maccabi Rishon LeTzion’s 6”6 shooting guard Shawn Dawson. Dawson put up 20 points but did not have much help. Lior Eliyahu was the only other member of the Blue and White to reach double figures with 12 points.
The final score was a bit tighter in the second matchup but Serbia still came out on top, 79-71, after building a double digit lead by halftime. On the Serbian side, Miroslav Radulijica had a near double double with 16 points and 9 boards and Zoran Erceg notched 11 points.
Lior Eliyahu was the only Israeli player to reach double digits with 14 points. Yogev Ohayon, who also returned to the team this weekend along with Eliyahu, picked up six assists. Despite Eliyahu’s strong effort, one of Israel’s shortcomings was on the defensive glass, where an inability to rebound led to many second chances for the Serbs.
Israel is depending on Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel to lead the team out of the group at EuroBasket. Casspi made little impression over the weekend, sitting out game two due to illness after tallying just four points over 18 minutes in the first game. Mekel, the former Wichita St. Shocker guard, notched six points in 22 minutes in the first game, and followed that with eight more points in the second game. Considered the two players with the best credentials due to the time they spent in the NBA, Israel needs more out of Casspi and Mekel.
Israel will head to Croatia this week for 3 final warm up games in search of their first win of the summer prior to EuroBasket. They will take on Bosnia (also in their EuroBasket group), Estonia, and Croatia. The Blue and White open up against Russia, the team formerly coached by David Blatt, on September 5th in Montpellier, France to open up Eurobasket group play. The top four teams in each group advance to the knockout round, something Israel has not accomplished since 2007. This time around the Israelis will face the likes of Tony Parker, Marcin Gortat, et al, so the Blue and White will need to start firing on all cylinders sooner rather than later.
Stay up to date on the Israel National Basketball team and the EuroBasket adventure on the Sports Rabbi website!