Lior Eliyahu 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite failing to score a single field goal in the fourth quarter, Israel ended its EuroBasket campaign with a win on Monday afternoon, defeating Italy 96-95 in overtime in Siauliai, Lithuania to finish in fourth position in Group B with a 2-3 record.
The national team lost any hope of claiming a top-three finish and a place in the last 12 after falling in its first three games in Lithuania to Germany, France and Serbia.
However, wins against Latvia and Italy ensured that Israel ended the European Championships on a positive note after losing its first three games by an average 17.7 points.
Israel took a 79-60 lead into the fourth period on Monday, but it was outscored 24-5 in the final 10 minutes, with all five of its points coming from the line over the final 16 seconds.
An Andrea Bargnani three-pointer with 1.4 seconds to play tied the score
at 84-84 and sent the game into overtime, but the Toronto Raptors
forward also ended up costing Italy the game.
After the Italians missed a couple of chances under the basket, Bargnani
inexplicably fouled Yaniv Green with less than a second remaining, and
the Israel center clinched the win with his second free throw.
“It was a strange game,” Israel coach Arik Shivek said. “I ran out of
players during the game and we made some bad decisions. Nevertheless,
I’m pleased that we showed a lot of character. We were heartbroken at
the start of overtime, but we managed to win the game. We set ourselves a
goal to win these two games in the tournament and hopefully steal a
victory against Germany, France or Serbia. But we failed to do that.”
Guy Pnini scored 22 points for Israel, with David Blu adding 17 points
and Lior Eliyahu contributing 16 points and seven rebounds.
Bargnani had 26 points and 11 rebounds, with Denver Nuggets scorer Danilo Gallinari netting 19 points.
“Those were the longest minutes in my life,” said Green, who had to wait
for five minutes before attempting the crucial free throw that won the
game after the scoreboard in the arena in Siauliai failed. “It is good
to end the tournament like this and beat a team like Italy. I’m always
happy to come and help the team, but there are a few things I would like
to see change if I’m to play in Israel’s next campaign,” added the
31-year-old Green, hinting towards international retirement.
“The first game against Germany killed us, but we picked ourselves up
and won two important games that brought pride to the team and to the
state of Israel.”