Israel may be in their 69th year and was founded in 48 but those numbers will be remembered after Italy demolished Israel by 21-points 69-48 at Yad Eliyahu in their first game of the Eurobasket tournament. With the competition making its debut in the Holy Land, Marco Belinelli scored 18 points going 5/8 from 3-point land, Luigi Datome dropped 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds while Nicolo Melli scored 9 points and collected 10 boards in the win. Omri Casspi tried valiantly to keep his side in the game with 18 points and 9 rebounds but it was just too little for Israel on this night.
Israel was out-coached, out-played, out-managed, out-hustled, out-gunned, out-manned. In essence they are outed by Italy after going 9-2 in Eurobasket warmup games. Israel was never in a contest that they needed to win especially once Lithuania who will be the Blue & White’s next opponent lost to Georgia just an hour earlier.
In front of the home crowd the Blue & White forgot to show up. From the starters on the floor to the very few players who came off of the bench to the coach or was it coaches with Pini Gershon making hand signals all over the place as Erez Edelstein seemed clueless at best to counter an Italy that was by all means subpar.
Italy took an early 6 point lead after the first frame 21-15 as Omri Casspi scored 8 of Israel’s points in the quarter as the Blue & White shot a miserable 5/17 from the field after ten minutes. With an ailing Lior Eliyahu playing the first 15 minutes of the contest, Israel went down by ten points 30-20 while being out-rebounded 22-10 midway through the second period. The half ended with Israel only down by 4-points 36-32 as Marco Belinelli drained 5/6 from beyond the arc good for 15 first half points to lead the way for the Italians.
Coach Erez Edelstein made very few changes throughout the half and continued that trend over the course of the last 20 minutes as Italy kept pouring it on while Israel could find no answers scoring only 9 in the 3rd and 7 in 4th to fall by 21 points, 69-48.
1) Who was coaching the game tonight? Was it Erez Edelstein or Pini Gershon? Was it both or was it neither? Lots of questions must be asked about the game plan that was executed or that lacked execution. Why did Lior Eliyahu who had been sick for a number of days play the first 15 minutes of the game? Why did Guy Pnini play for 21 minutes? Why would Edelstein play both of them for a combined 43 minutes when the production was a total of 4 points. Why did Bar Timor and Oz Blayzer only play 18 seconds and why did Idan Zalmanson and Elyshay Kadir not step onto the court when everyone could see that nothing was working. These are all tough questions that the coach needs to answer before the next game against Lithuania who will be hungry, very hungry after losing by two points to Georgia.
2) Israel went a brutal 1/14 from 3-point land and shot a paltry 26% from the field. Couple that with being out-rebounded 43-32 and you have a recipe for disaster for the Blue & White. Nothing went right for the players on the court and unfortunately for them Coach Edelstein didn’t help them out by making substitutions and going with a short rotation. Israel was playing from behind all game long and even though they were only down by four points at the half they always seemed to be chasing their own tails. Chasing and chasing and chasing. Now they’ll have to chase down the rest of the group with 4 games to go.
3) Omri Casspi tried his best to keep Israel in the game scoring 18 points while pulling down 9 rebounds but it just wasn’t enough. The Golden State Warriors forward dominated Israel’s first half and without him who knows where the hosts would have been as he had very little help on the floor. Gal Mekel went 3/12, Shawn Dawson 1/7 and Richard Howell went an abysmal 4/11. All that and we didn’t mention Guy Pnini going 0/3 and Lior Eliyahu’s 2/7… those numbers aren’t going to win anything.
Marco Belinelli and Luigi Datome dominated Israel by scoring at will and by following Ettore Messina’s game plan to a “T” as Italy picked up the win in fine fashion. Add to that a little Nicolo Melli who played the part of floor general and it was the perfect combination to pick up a victory in front of close to 10k Israeli fans. Italy showed their professionalism on the court while Messina acted as the diplomat off of it as only he can. Italy had said all week that Israel were favorites and the coach continued with the underdog line at the post game press conference by saying that Blue & White just had a bad day at the office. Methinks it was more than just a bad day at the office.
They said it:
“We didn’t react well to the situation. It did go through my head to make changes even though we had decided to go with a short rotation because we have an off day tomorrow.”
More about Italy:
“They took us out of our game, maybe we could have been able to stop some of the shots that Belinelli hit going 5/6. Italy gave us a lesson in defense and we had a hard time with Melli who played as a guard with his back to the basket.”
“We’re disappointed and shot low percentages and when we shoot like this it’s hard to win the game. We have to do a restart.”