Omri Caspi on the court. .
(photo credit: ISRAEL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION)
Five days before it gets EuroBasket 2017 under way, the Israel national team suffered its heaviest defeat of the summer on Saturday, losing 85-64 to Great Britain in its final tune-up game in Warsaw, Poland.
Israel, which hosts Italy in its Euro- Basket opener at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv on Thursday night, had won nine of its previous 10 warm-up games, including twice against Great Britain. However, it trailed by double- digits throughout almost all of Saturday’s clash, angering head coach Erez Edelstein.
“I didn’t like what I saw. This is not the way we played throughout this summer,” said Edelstein. “We were lax and perhaps also a little unfocused. We didn’t match their aggressiveness and this is a wake-up call ahead of the championships. It is clear to me that we will face a similar level of aggressiveness against Italy, Lithuania, Germany and Georgia.”
After facing Italy in its tournament opener, Israel plays Lithuania on Saturday and Germany next Sunday.
The blue-and-white will then enjoy a one-day break before facing Georgia and Ukraine on Tuesday and Wednesday to wrap up its group games.
All Group B action will be played at Yad Eliyahu, with Israel hosting the European Championships for the first time.
The top four teams from each of the four groups will advance to the knockout rounds which will be played in Istanbul, Turkey between September 9 and 17.
Israel will be playing in the European Championships for a 13th consecutive occasion, a streak stretching back to 1993. The blue-and-white is hoping to progress to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.
After defeating Poland on Thursday, Israel overcame Hungary 85-70 in Warsaw on Friday. Omri Casspi led the way once more with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The blue-and-white was hoping to end its tune-up games on a winning note on Saturday, but got off to a slow start without guard Gal Mekel, who was rested. The Brits opened the game with an 11-3 run and never looked back. Israel trailed by 10 points (26-16) after 10 minutes and would come no closer until the final buzzer.
Richard Howell led the national team with 15 points, with Guy Pnini adding 14.
The team will return home on Sunday and will get back to training on Monday when the coaching staff is also set to announce its final roster for the championships.
Forwards Amit Simhon and Elishay Kadir, who saw little action during the summer, are believed to be fighting it out for the 12th and final spot on the roster.
Guards Gal Mekel (Gran Canaria), Yogev Ohayon (Hapoel Jerusalem), Bar Timor (Hapoel Jerusalem), Yotam Halperin (Hapoel Jerusalem) and Shawn Dawson (Bnei Herzliya) all look certain to be part of the team.
The forward positions will be filled by Omri Casspi (Golden State Warriors), Guy Pnini (Hapoel Holon), Oz Blayzer (Maccabi Haifa) and Lior Eliyahu (Hapoel Jerusalem), with Richard Howell (Hapoel Jerusalem) and Idan Zalmanson (Maccabi Rishon Lezion) to be the team’s centers.
“We had certain goals during our tune-up games,” explained Edelstein.
“We tried different players and we were always trying to keep other players fresh and avoid injuries. We did it well for large periods this summer, but didn’t manage to do so on Saturday.
We have plenty to learn in the four days we have left to prepare for the championships.”