Despite a dismal 0-3 start to the European Championships, Israel coach Arik
Shivek still somehow believes the national team is capable of progressing to the
second round in Slovenia.
Victories over Belgium on Sunday night and
against Germany in the blue-and-white’s final Group A game on Monday, combined
with other results going its way, could indeed see Israel finish among the top
three teams and advance to the next stage of the EuroBasket.
considering Israel’s desperate displays in its defeats to Great Britain (75-71),
Ukraine (74-67) and France (82-63), it is hard to see quite where Shivek draws
his optimism from.
“I think that the team is improving as the tournament
has progressed,” said Shivek following the defeat to France on Friday night. “We
are always trying to find solutions, and even though it might not always seem
that way, the players really take the defeats to heart and really want to
“In the last EuroBasket we also began the tournament 0-3 and went on
to win our final two group games, although they were insignificant,” added
Shivek. “I told the players that as someone who believes in God I am thankful
that our fate is still in our hands. We know that if we play well for 80 minutes
we can progress.”
Israel looked to be cruising to a victory against Great
Britain in its opener on Wednesday, only to hit just one of 10 free throws in
the closing stages and drop to an overtime loss to a team that was regarded by
many as the weakest to have qualified for the tournament.
to a 13-2 lead at the start of Thursday’s encounter and although Israel came
within just two points (62-60) with four minutes to play in the game, it
couldn’t complete a comeback.
No one expected Israel to beat France even
before its first two defeats, so it was of little surprise that the national
team dug itself an early hole once more (12-3) and trailed throughout the
Israel’s defensive play in Ljubljana has been disappointing to say
the least, but its output on offense has been truly shocking.
blue-and-white is ranked in 20th place out of the tournaments 24 teams with a
field-goal percentage of 38.4, with the team’s star Omri Casspi hitting just
23.3% of his shots.
Nevertheless, Casspi is still tied with Lior Eliyahu
as Israel’s second-highest scorer with 11.0 points per game, with substitute
guard Afik Nissim leading the roster with an average of 11.3 points.
are under a lot of pressure and that is obvious,” said Casspi. “But anyone who
can’t handle the criticism, especially after the way we have played, shouldn’t
be here. We have two more games left and we need to win them for our pride,
whether we advance or not.”
The 25-year-old forward, who joined the
Houston Rockets two months ago after two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers,
is playing in his first EuroBasket after choosing to skip the 2009 tournament to
prepare for his NBA career and being forced out of the championships two years
ago through injury.
Casspi explained that his performance was initially
affected by his excitement at finally taking part in the championships, but took
full responsibility for the team’s poor showings.
“Had I even been
mediocre we would have won our first two games,” added Casspi. “I haven’t shown
up on either side of the floor and I will have to learn from this. I’m 25 and
these are my first championships so I will have a chance to take part in more
Besides beating Belgium and Germany, Israel will need the
Germans to defeat Great Britain on Sunday and for France to overcome the
Belgians on Monday in order to climb up to third place and progress to the
A German victory over the Brits and a France triumph versus
Belgium seem quite likely, but following Israel’s start to the tournament, it is
hard to see how Shivek’s side will keep its part of the deal.
that the players will be able to lift themselves in the next two games,” said
Shivek. “I think that we are slowly finding our rhythm. We had a glitch in our
first game and that has affected us. I have no doubt that a win on Sunday could
really help us also win on Monday.”