1) Israel made amends for their blow out loss to Greece last Thursday at home in Tel Aviv by defeating Great Britain in Scotland qualifying for the second round of World Cup qualifying. The Blue & White played a smart and intelligent game against a very physical opponent. Coach Oded Katash also did a much better job in managing the game and allocating minutes to the players including Bar Timor (15 minutes) and Avi Ben Chimol (9 minutes) who each helped spell Gal Mekel and Tamir Blatt during the game. The distribution wiped out Raviv Limonad and Joaquin Szuchman from the rotation while also reducing Blatt’s minutes who didn’t have a standout evening with only 3 points going 1/5 from the field while dishing out 4 assists. Both Timor and Ben Chimol may not have made a huge dent offensively but they played quality basketball while only turning over the ball once a piece.
2) Gal Mekel had arguably his best game for Israel in World Cup qualifying as the guard scored 20 points, dished out 5 assists and pulled down 4 boards in the victory. Add to that his efficiency of 22 and your captain was speaking. If Israel is to succeed in the next round of qualifying they’ll need Mekel playing on all cylinders and there’s no reason to doubt he can’t play as he did against Great Britain once again. After the game, the guard spoke about tiger importance of moving into the second round, “We’re very happy and it was a big win as it was important that we secured our place in the next round. We are a very young team and we have 8-9 new guys, but we did our job and qualified for the next round. I’m super proud of the team and now we can begin our vacation with a big smile.”
3) The next round of games will take place in September and there is a good chance that Omri Casspi will play for Israel against Georgia at home and Germany on the road. That will definitely help the Blue & White out and provide instant impact for the squad. Casspi who came to terms with the Memphis Grizzlies can use the training camp and qualifying games as an opportunity to warm up for the NBA season. One area he can help out is Israel’s poor shooting. 4/15 from 3-point land is not going to cut it as the long distance woes continued for Katash’s men. As poorly as Israel shot (42.6%) Great Britain was worse (33.9%). However, Israel can’t count on a poor shooting game by their opponent each time out.
Israel now moves into a group of 6 teams where 3 will advance to the 2019 World Cup in China. joining the Blue & White, Greece and Estonia are Germany, Serbia and Georgia. With Israel sitting in 4th place at 3-3, both Germany and Greece are 6-0 and Serbia is 4-2 so it will be a necessity for Katash’s side to not only beat Georgia twice but also find their way by Serbia and Germany. Difficult, but not impossible. Should Israel have lost and gone into the second round with a 2-4 record it would have been almost a mission impossible, but with a .500 record they still have a fighting chance. The last game on the road in Serbia may be for all of the marbles.
September 13-14 – Georgia (H)
September 16-17 – Germany (R)
November 29-30 – Serbia (H)
December 2-3 – Georgia (R)
February 21-22 – Germany (H)
February 24-25 – Serbia (R)