Israel guard Gal Mekel.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Israel is still searching for its first win this summer after falling to its fourth straight defeat to begin its preparations for Euro- Basket 2015 on Saturday, losing 85-70 to Serbia at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
After losing its first three warm-up games in Macedonia last week, twice to the hosts and once to Ukraine, the national team was hoping to register a confidence- boosting victory over last year’s World Cup finalist. However, it trailed almost from start to finish on Saturday, struggling with Omri Casspi falling ill and Gal Mekel playing far from his best.
Despite committing 19 turnovers, Serbia cruised to the win and Israel will require a much-improved performance on Sunday to have any chance of forcing a close game when the teams meet again at Yad Eliyahu.
The one ray of light for Israel was the play of youngster Shawn Dowson, who led the team with 20 points. Lior Eliyahu was the blue-and-white’s only other player in double figures with 12 points, with Israel hitting just 2-of-17 attempts from three-point range.
Mekel finished with just six points in 22 minutes, while Casspi had four points in 18 minutes.
Israel coach Erez Edelstein at least finally had a full roster at his disposal on Saturday, apart from the injured Yotam Halperin and Guy Pnini, who have already been ruled out for the summer. Yogev Ohayon was back in action after missing the tournament in Macedonia due to his ongoing battle with Crohn’s disease, while Lior Eliyahu also played after skipping the trip due to personal reasons.
Nemanja Nedovic led four Serbia players in double digits with 16 points.
Israel led briefly at the start, but Serbia established an eight-point gap (26-18) after 10 minutes and never looked back.
The hosts closed to within four points (34-30), but Serbia scored nine of the final 11 points of the half to establish a double-digit gap it easily maintained until the final buzzer.
Israel will play in Group A in Euro- Basket 2015, which gets under way on September 5, being drawn with host and defending champion France, as well as Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland and Finland.
The championships will take place between September 5-20 and will be hosted by four countries (France, Germany, Latvia, Croatia). Israel’s group will be played in Montpellier (France), with the Final Phase set to take place in Lille (France).
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.