Tough but not impossible: Israel licks wounds after pair of FIBA World Cup losses to Germany

Mar 1, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

If you are a fan of the Israel National Team and its program you are definitely disappointed by their play in the pair of games against Germany which resulted in two losses. Not so much that the blue-and-white weren’t in the games, they were and had more than enough chances to win both but came up empty in crunch time choking up when the chips were all on the table.

It wasn’t necessarily one or two players or even coach Guy Goodes, but it was a number of things that just went the wrong way for Israel as the time ticked off the clock in the fourth quarters of both contests as they were in the lead and couldn’t seal the deal.

The 71-67 loss on Friday was disappointing in front of the home crowd at the Drive In Arena in Tel Aviv, but Monday’s 84-80 defeat in Heidelberg was even more frustrating after holding a 15 points lead with under a minute left in the third quarter. When you are up by double digits heading into the final frame, you’ve got to finish it off and make sure you take the win by hook or by crook.

Germany celebrates – Photo Credit: FIBA

Whether it was mismanagement of the offensive possessions, or not taking a rebound here or there down the stretch, it was one small thing after the next that did Israel in this time around. Allowing Germany the opportunity to grab 11 offensive boards is close to criminal while committing 18 turnovers is never going to help a team win the game no matter what has gone on over the course of 40 minutes.

But the game defining moment didn’t really occur when the time ticked down in the last quarter, it was when the time ran off the clock at the end of the third when Israel held a 15 point lead and looked to take a 65-50 advantage into the last period. However, they couldn’t hold on. Christian Sengfelder (who was phenomenal in both games) was fouled and knocked down his two free throws with 23 seconds left and when Yam Madar missed a layup with 4 seconds left, Max Di Leo whipped the ball out to Justus Hollatz (who was also superb in both games) who scored as time expired to cut the lead to 65-54. That was a killer for the blue-and-white.

Gordon Herbert – Photo Credit: FIBA

“It was huge that we scored,” Germany’s Canadian coach Gordon Herbert said. “We got a stop and Max Di Leo made a big play to Hollatz and we got 4 points at the end of the quarter. The momentum going forward was huge and that gave the bench momentum and spirit.”

Tomer Ginat who was the star of the show for Israel was devastated after falling yet again in Germany in a game that should have been a win to move the team’s record to 3-1 and not fall back to 2-2.

“We are very disappointed and we could have won both of these games in this window,” the Metropolitans forward said. “They were in our hands, especially today but we messed it up at the end. We will have to come back in the next window and do what we need to in order to win both games in order to move ahead.”

Tomer Ginat – Photo Credit: FIBA

“At the end we committed some turnovers, missed some defensive rebounds and they hit some 3-pointers. These were all things we had experienced in the first game and it’s unfortunate that this is how the game ended. It was in our hands with a big lead and it slipped away.”

Tamir Blatt, who joined the squad from Euroleague team ALBA Berlin played well in his first appearance in some time for Israel. He looked extremely competent running the point and his vision and shot was as good as ever. But playing 31+ minutes when his continental average is less than half at 14 minutes, one could see that he just simply ran out of gasoline at the end as did Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Jake Cohen.

“Not much to say, it’s unfortunate. I felt we were controlling the game and Germany ended up winning the game in the last quarter. It was great to join the National Team which I have been a part of since 2018 and I was looking forward to it as we like to play for one another. I was really excited to come help. We fell short and we will now look forward to the next game.”

Tamir Blatt – Photo Credit: FIBA

As the gap continued to close over the course of the final ten minutes it was clear that the cream rose to the top for Germany as their three Euroleague players came up big at the end. Maodo Lo with 18 points and 7 assists, Johannes Thiemann with 10 points and 9 boards along with Andreas Obst who scored his five points and picked up a crucial steal to put his team ahead along with Sengfelder who was a constant in both games were the key players in the win.

“Chris (Sengfelder) set the tone with his intensity and we fought inside and we got some momentum,” Herbert explained. “That is the game of basketball. We got a run and then Obst hit a couple of big shots. We had some players make plays like Lo and that is why he gets the credit and all of that money (laughing).”

Guy Goodes – Photo Credit: FIBA

Goodes will now have to pick up the pieces to make sure that Israel goes into the last window with their best personnel available in order to punch their ticket to the second round of World Cup qualifying in the best position possible to qualify for the tournament itself in the Philippines in 2023. The top 3 teams in Group D which consists of Germany, Israel, Estonia and Poland will move onto the next stage where records are carried forward and will the match up with three of the four from Finland, Slovenia, Sweden and Croatia.

Not impossible, but two wins will be a must as most teams will be strengthened with NBA and Euroleague players.

“We missed it but we can’t cry because of these two losses,” Goodes said. “We started very well with two wins in the first window and we played a tough team in Germany and it will be tough in June as well.”

Tough but not impossible.

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