Israel National Basketball Team wins 110-88

Last night the Israel National basketball team overwhelmed and outclassed a Latvia squad, running away with a 110-88 victory at the Nokia Arena.

Yes, there were many bright spots in the game, bright spots that show where Israel’s strengths lie, but it also revealed some serious weaknesses that may haunt them in some of the games ahead, especially those against Montenegro whom they face at home on Saturday night and play again on the last day of the qualifying tournament away on Sunday August 29th.

When Israel ran last night, they looked like a true thoroughbred. Running the fast break with the likes of Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi, Yotam Halperin (who doesn’t have a team for next year!), Tal Burstein and Lior Eliyahu (also no club), Israel looked absolutely unstoppable.

How unstoppable? How about outscoring Latvia 30-11 on fast break points. Not bad. On top of that Israel had 12 steals, scoring 19 points on turnovers. Pretty good hands, quick, efficient and fun to watch.

A well oiled offensive machine when in the fast break transition offense. Israel played so well as a cohesive unit, one would have thought these guys had been in training camp for months, not just for a few weeks.

One player after another knew exactly where the next one would be. It was an absolute pleasure to watch them.

The problems that face Israel however are two fold and should be carefully scrutinized in the box score. Set offense, rebounds, second chance points and points in the paint. This unfortunately may be their Achilles heal.

Let’s analyze the latter 3 first. Latvia with some big bodies, but not too big on talent though, grabbed 40 boards to Israel’s 30. Latvia outscored Israel 18-13 on second chances and had 42 points down low to Israel’s 36.

Israel unfortunately does not have those big bodies down low to box out and dominate the paint and against a superior offensive squad like Montenegro they may be in trouble.

The likes of Nikola Pekovic with his 2.09M frame and Vladimir Dasic are an imposing presence down low and will cause havoc on the Israelis trying to penetrate going to the basket.

With Goran Jeretin and Omar Cook dishing out the ball or straddling the three point line, both will be outside threats all night long.

The real fear for me will be Israel’s poor set offensive play. We again saw yesterday, when Israel is not in the fast break offense and they decide to wind the shot clock down they have trouble scoring points. This happened at the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd quarters when Latvia cut into the large Israel lead.

Israel was fortunate to have the luxury of a large lead in order to work on this aspect of their offense and could score and run at will against a far inferior squad, but one should be concerned that this offense which they will be forced to run against a team like Montenegro will cost them the group lead and possibly an automatic bid into Eurobasket 2011.

With all that being said, Israel does an away game in Helsinki on Wednesday night and as coach Arik Sivek said during his post game press conference yesterday, “Finland is dangerous and it will be a key game for us.”

Yes, coach Sivek has a tough assignment in Finland. Make sure your players are not looking to far down the road with Montenegro on Saturday and Italy on Tuesday. Let’s take care of the games we have to win and then keep the home court advantage.

Israel’s off to a fantastic start but one loss in the next three games could set Israel back into a position they were in last year, the last chance tournament for Eurobasket 2009. A position that they do not want to be in again.

Check out for more coverage of the Israel National Basketball team, including interviews and pictures.

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