Greece took out Israel 82-61 at the Heraklion Arena in Crete as Panathinaikos star Nick Calathes led the way with 11 points and 8 assists. Israel took the lead after ten minutes 18-15, but were eventually overpowered by the Greeks at halftime as the hosts led 37-32. Calathes and company turned up the heat in the third frame outscoring Israel 22-15 good for a 59-47 advantage and continued the beatdown over the final ten minutes coming away with the 21-point victory. Rich Howell led the Israel scorers with 13 points and 9 guards, Jake Cohen dropped 10 points and grabbed 5 rebounds while Tamir Blatt and Bar Timor each chipped in the 10 points. Giannopolus scored 13 points, Calathes and Sakota 10 points each and Mavroedis added 10 for Greece in the win.
1) Turnovers were the name of the game for Israel with 17 of them in the first half and another 9 in the second. The amazing thing is that the Blue & White were still in the game after 20 minutes, down by only 5 points, 37-32. But the Greeks quality showed and showed brightly over the last 2 quarters as they ran away with the win. Jake Cohen spoke about the fact that the team hadn’t played much together, only being with each other for under a week, however, he was also quick to say that it wasn’t an excuse as every other National Team was in the same predicament. Cohen was a stand up guy as always and although he was Israel’s player of the game, he also showed leadership by commenting on how the team will only get better.
2) Head Coach Oded Katash also spoke about how the team was coming together and it will be a process and take time. He began his press conference by talking about how great it was to be with the players and how he was optimistic going forward. Katash also went back to the turnovers and told the team at the half that even though the had given up the ball so many times, they were still in the game. However, that didn’t last very long as Greece began to open up the lead with their veteran players, swishing and dishing, slicing and dicing, it was a pleasure to watch. From Calathes to Giannopoulos, Sakota to Antetokounmpo and Mavroeidis to Vasilopoulos it didn’t matter what club team they play for, they were dominant across the board. For Israel it’s a turnover, not the literal one on the court, but one that will see new players being introduced to the Blue & White.
3) Nicholas William Calathes. Nick. Calathes. What can you say. We had the privilege to witness one of the greats playing in Europe today. In the first half he played scorer dropping 9 points while in the second he was the playmaker handing out 6 helpers. Not only is he an amazing player to watch, he’s also an amazing person, a real mentsch. After his game for Panathinaikos against Real Madrid he along with Antetokounmpo and Vougioukas joined the National team and they couldn’t have looked happier to be there. Antetokounmpo was jumping on the bench and of course in the air when Calathes airmailed him a couple of balls in his happy zone. Bottom line, we all have a lot to learn about their love of the game and their commitment to something that’s a bit bigger.
It was interesting to see Tamir Blatt play against Greece in the same arena where he had played over the summer in the Under-20 Euro. He didn’t look out of his league, hit some gorgeous shots including pair of 3’s and is slowly but surely gaining the confidence of his coach and players. It probably won’t be long until Blatt will be the starting point guard and it also seems that Katash sees a bit of himself in this up and coming player. Cheered on by his family in the stands, the young Blatt has a future a real future as a star in Israel and perhaps beyond. Like father, like son.