Lithuania didn’t have to worry after being shocked by Georgia on Thursday; they had the best medicine that cures all, Israel. The Blue & White played upbeat high tempo ball for the first 20 minutes as Richard Howell starred scoring 14 points as Israel was only down by 1 point at the half, 38-37. But the Hapoel Jerusalem center picked up a pair of quick fouls to begin the 3rd quarter giving him 4 for the game and that was that. Lithuania scored at will and ran wild over Israel in the frame outscoring the Erez Edelstein’s crew 33-14 to go onto a comfortable 88-73 win.
1) I have to gave credit to Erez Edelstein and the players for coming out strong after Thursday night’s debacle against Italy, specifically Richard Howell who scored 14 points to keep Israel afloat after 20 minutes. The bench was used well in the first half and the players all stepped up in a fantastic atmosphere for basketball with about 1000 Lithuanian fans in attendance. One could say that the first half was a bit masked by Jonas Valanciunas picking up 2 quick fouls and only playing 7 minutes, but the Blue & White stayed in the game. Unfortunately, Howell who was the glue that held Israel together in the first half was called for 2 fouls to open up the second half and off he went to bench as well as Israel’s chances to steal a win.
2) Israel was dominated in the rebound category 43-21 and controlling the boards was clearly a goal for the Lithuanians as they said exactly that in the press conference. Coach Dainius Adomaitis and New York Knicks stud Mindaugus Kuzminskas spoke about making a point to get Richard Howell into foul trouble to take him out of the game as the center picked up 2 first quarter fouls and then 2 more to begin the second half. Howell scored 20 points and was a force down low but he was just not enough on this night. On another note, it seems Omri Casspi is still hurt and was quite wobbly on the floor shooting on 4/12 going 1/7 from 2 and 3/5 from beyond the arc. 4/8 from the free throw line to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 15 points won’t cut it against Germany. The captain tried his best featuring for over 33 minutes but Casspi has got to be in shape if Israel is to make a dent in this campaign.
3) The Lithuanians also spoke about how they wanted to cut back the fast break points which they did as Israel scored 11 in the first half and only 6 points in the second half. They knew that Israel could run and that when they had to play a set offense they would not have been as dangerous. The other stats that pop out of the scoresheet was the bench points as Lithuania drowned Israel 56-9 in that category. A number of reasons that occurred was because Valanciunas went out early with foul trouble and players like Arturas Gudaitis who played 12 minutes dropped 16 points, Kuzminskas came off the bench and scored 16 points while Edgaras Ulanovas was the high scorer with 18 points. Edelstein spoke about his bench and said some of the players who he had could start, but the facts are the facts, 9 bench points is pitiful.
Sunday’s game against Germany is do or die for Israel. They have to win and they have to stop Dennis Schroder. How? I’m not sure. Germany who is already sitting at 2:0 and are on the cusp of qualifying for the Round of 16 and they won’t want to mess up against the Blue & White when their last two games are against Lithuania and Italy. My initial thought is that Israel must put their best defensive player in Bar Timor on the floor to man mark him all game long. Of course, Schroder is not the only player that Germany has and their big men can cause havoc for Israel as well. Richard Howell will need to be very careful not to get into foul trouble as he spoke about that at the press conference: “I think it’s mental and I got to keep my hands to myself. Tomorrow I plan on working hard at that.” Well he’s got to be super careful because without Howell Israel is in deep, deep trouble.