Valiant Israel comes up short in 89-78 loss to Serbia; Need win vs Czechia for knockout round spot

Sep 6, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Israel gave a valiant effort but came up short against Serbia falling 89-78 to even up their Eurobasket record to 2-2 with one game remaining in group stage play against the host country Czech Republic on Thursday evening in a battle for a knockout stage place in Berlin.

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets showed exactly why he is a superstar in the best league in the world as he along with Anadolu EFES star Vasilije Micic led Serbia to the win to move keep their perfect group stage record intact. Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija and Partizan Belgrade guard Yam Madar played brilliantly together but their efforts were not enough on this night as Israel will now have to find a way past Czechia in their final group stage game.

Nimrod Levi – Photo Credit: FIBA

“I’m really proud of how we played against Serbia with all of the talent that they have,” Goodes began. “We saw what they did to Finland and I told them that if we want to keep the score close that we have to play together and never give up. We needed to handle momentum swings during the game and unfortunately they went on a 14-0 run and with a few big shots they opened up a small gap. We left everything on the floor and the last game will be like a final for the cup, whoever wins goes on. We have to give our best.”

“We knew that we would have a tough game against Israel in what was an unorthodox game with switching defense,” Pesic stated. “But we scored 89 points which means that we were able to break that down and we won the game. Every game at this competition is a new experience and a chance to learn something about ourselves.”

Rafi Menco who scored a trio of triples in the game reflected on the clash, “I’m very proud of the guys as we came to play against a very strong team, but at the end of the day we came up as bit short. Thursday we have a big game versus Czechia and we will continue what we did today and do the same in that matchup as there’s no way home. We need to win any which way we can and it doesn’t matter how.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: FIBA

The blue-and-white came into the matchup against Svetislav Pesic’s squad as a clear underdog as Serbia entered the contest with a 3-0 record having waltzed through the likes of Finland, Holland and Czech Republic. However, Guy Goodes’s team gave everything they had and not only put Serbia on the ropes a couple of times but were also able to play their most complete game ahead of Thursday’s decisive clash at the O2 Arena in Prague.

Israel started our slowly which has been a theme throughout the European Championships as Nikola Jokic did as he pleased and scored 14 first quarter points while Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija tried to keep his side close but Serbia was able to grab a 24-18 lead after ten minutes of action. Yam Madar got hit to start the second quarter and spurred Israel to a 30-28 lead, but Vasilije Micic joined the party in the second frame for Pesic’s crew to open up a double digit 50-38 halftime advantage.

Gal Mekel, Nimrod Levi and Jake Cohen along with Madar and Avdija chipped away at the lead to pull the blue-and-white to within two-points, 65-63 early on in the fourth quarter, but Micic, Jokic and the game’s x-factor Ognjen Jaramaz helped take Serbia on a 14-0 run as they polished off an 89-78 win.

Nikola Jokic – Photo Credit: FIBA

Jokic scored a game high 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Micic added 19 points, while Nikola Kalinic and Ognjen Jaramaz scored 10 points a piece in the win. Madar paced Israel with 20 points, Avdija added 14 points and Roman Sorkin chipped in with 11 points and 9 boards in the loss.

Israel opened up their 2022 Eurobasket campaign with an overtime win over Finland and then a tough victory over Holland. However, the blue-and-white have lost their last two contests against Poland and now Serbia putting them in a precarious situation in which they will need to defeat the host on their home turf in front of over 18,000 supporters.

Serbia will tip-off against 3-1 Poland in the nightcap for the group’s first spot while Finland with superstar Lauri Markkanen from the Utah Jazz are also 2-2 but will need to beat 0-4 Holland in order to qualify for the knockout stages as well. Should they be surprised and lose in Thursday’s opener, Israel will still be able to lose to Czech Republic by up to 5 points and advance.

Nikola Jokic – Photo Credit: FIBA

Nikola Jokic opened up what game with a triple, Roman Sorkin scored over Jokic in the paint, Deni Avdija put in a 3-point play, Vladimir Lucic ripped off a Tamir Blatt and went in for an easy layup, while Jokic went over the Israeli defense for a mini-hook to give Serbia an 11-5 lead midway through the first quarter.

Nemanja Nedovic picked off an errant pass an easy deuce, Jokic added another deuce in the paint, Yovel Zoosman hit a 3-pointer as did Avdija, who followed it up with a tomahawk dunk, Jokic scored a layup and then added a 3-point play but Rafi Menco nailed a corner 3-ball as Serbia went ahead 24-18 after ten minutes of play.

Yam Madar – Photo Credit: FIBA

Nimrod Levi and Yam Madar found points to start off the second quarter, Menco drilled in an elbow triple, Jake Cohen cleaned up around the boards and Madar went from downtown to give Israel a 30-28 lead with 5:54 left in the first half. Vasilje Micic and Lucic went from beyond the arc, Jokic scored over Sorkin, Micic put in a jumper in the lane, Madar and Micic traded triples, Sorkin put in a pair as did Jokic, Blatt hit a dead center 3-pointer but Marko Guduric went from the outside and then the inside to keep Serbia in front 50-38 at halftime.

Gel Mekel scored the first field goal of the third quarter, Menco went from deep, Guduric added a 3-point play and Micic put in a layup to pull ahead 59-44 midway through the period. Sorkin scored over Jokic, Nikola Kalinic came back with a corner triple, Levi scored a layup, Cohen went from downtown, as did Kalinic at the other end but points by Madar and a quarter ending 3-pointer by Avdija cut the lead to 65-58 after 30 minutes of play.

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: FIBA

Avdija with a behind the back pass to Levi started off the fourth quarter with points for Guy Goodes squad, Madar dialled up long distance to get to within 65-63 but Micic, Jokic and Ognjen Jaramaz immediately responded to bump the lead right back up to 73-63 with 7:07 left in regulation time.

Jaramaz hit a corner 3-pointer, Jokic scored yet again, then took his own rebound on a putback and followed that up by scoring over Avdija, Madar made a couple of buckets but Serbia stayed in front 83-70 with 3:09 remaining in the frame. Madar added another basket, Avdija went for 3, Jaramaz did the same, Kalinic then went for a triple to finally put Israel away as the blue-and-white will now need to defeat the Czech Republic in their final group stage game in order to reach the knockout rounds in Berlin.

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