Israel defeated Slovenia 89-84 and move their exhibition record to a perfect 7-0. The hosts took a 51-31 lead into halftime but the visitors stormed back to get within 4 points, 81-77 with only a few minuets to play, however, Israel held on for the 5-point victory. Omri Casspi starred for the Blue & White scoring 23 points while Richard Howell added 16 points as future NBA lottery pick Luka Doncic proved his worth with 24 points of his own for Slovenia. Israel faces Turkey on Sunday night and will then travel to Poland for a final tuneup before Eurobasket 2017 begins on August 31.
1) Omri Casspi looked so much better than in his previous outings, scoring 23 points while providing leadership on the floor. He looked like he was in rhythm with his teammates and with himself shooting a solid 64% from the field including hitting 3 from long distance. As Israel’s only NBA representative it will be crucial for Casspi to rise above the rest of the competition for the Blue & White to succeed in a very tough group.
2) If anyone thinks Luka Doncic won’t be a high lottery pick then they definitely don’t have a clue about basketball. The 18-year old Real Madrid star dropped 24 points hitting shots from behind the arc at ease looking like the future NBA star that he is destined to be. His smooth release to his good looks make him a can’t miss prospect in the world’s best league.
3) On one hand Israel has a tremendous amount of depth. On the other hand, if Richard Howell gets into foul trouble as he did against Slovenia and fouled out, the next replacement available is Idan Zalmanson. Sure, I complimented the big man last column and rightfully so after almost recording a double-double, but is that going to be enough against Italy, Lithuania, Germany, Ukraine and Georgia? Elishay Kadir didn’t play a second on Friday and though he didn’t have the height he certainly can do an admirable job when called upon. The real wildcard however is Itay Segev who is not on the national team due to an insurance issue that kept him from practices earlier in the summer with the younger squad. It’s a pity that Segev is not on the roster and that may cost Israel at some point in the competition. I certainly hope not, but it could.