Omri Casspi (9) will once again be expected to lead the Israel national team.
(photo credit: ISRAEL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION)
Israel got its preparations for EuroBasket 2015 off on the wrong foot on Friday, suffering a 75-58 defeat to hosts Macedonia in Ohrid.
The blue-and-white was anything but impressive in its first game of the summer, with stars Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel both looking rusty.
Israel was also playing without Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Yogev Ohayon, who is recovering from illness, and Hapoel Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu, who remained in Israel due to personal reasons.
The national team will be hoping for a better showing when it faces Ukraine in its second game in Ohrid on Sunday before playing Macedonia once more on Tuesday.
Israel scored the first seven points of the night on Friday, but Macedonia replied with a 17-2 run. The visitors reclaimed the lead in the second period, but Macedonia built a seven-point margin (38-31) by the break and controlled the second half.
Casspi led Israel with a mere 10 points, with Shawn Dowson scoring nine. The blue-and-white shot just 37 percent from two-point range (15-of-41), 21 percent from beyond the arc (3-of-14) and 63 percent from the free-throw line (19-of-30).
“This wasn’t a good start to our preparations,” said Casspi, who was named as the team’s new captain.
“There are guys here who hadn’t played in a long time. We will learn from this and this is the reason we play these games. This is the time to get rid of the rust and make sure we are ready for the start of the championships on September 5.”
Coach Erez Edelstein wasn’t pleased with what he saw.
“This was our first preparation game and it showed that we have many shortcomings on both defense and offense and that we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We knew that we would have a problem adjusting to the differences between the style of the Israeli league and European basketball and we will have to learn the hard way.”
Israel will play in Group A in September’s European Championships, being drawn with host and defending champion France, as well as Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland and Finland.
The blue-and-white is aiming to advance past the first round for the first time since 2007 after winning just three games in total over the past three tournaments.
The top four teams in the group will progress to the knockout rounds.
Israel qualified for EuroBasket 2015 in impressive fashion last year, winning its group