Israel's run at the European Basketball Championships came to an end on Tuesday night with a 67-61 defeat to Greece at Pionir Arena in Belgrade.
Coach Tzvika Sherf's charges played an awful first half and still nearly bounced back against the physical Greeks. Greece advances to the quarterfinals where it will face Russia on Thursday.
The blue-and-white scored just six points in the first quarter and eight in the second. However a run of fine three-point shooting at the end of the third and during the fourth saw Israel cut Greece's lead to as little as three points. Yaniv Green led Israel with 11 points.
Team leader Tal Burstein and sparkplug Dror Hajaj had one of their poorer performances of the tournament, but Meir Tapiro stepped up as did a pair of players that hardly saw action all tournament. Reserve center Erez Marckovich filled in nicely for Green with nine points and five rebounds in 16 minutes. Yotam Halperin hit clutch three-pointers and drew an important foul down the stretch.
Greek center Lazaros Papadopoulos was a force in the paint with 19 points and 10 boards and guard Nikos Zisis had his best game yet with 23 points and six assists. Michail Kakiouzis added 12.
It was Israeli turnovers that allowed Greece to get ahead. Four times in the first quarter Israeli players made bad passes that resulted in Greek fastbreak points. It didn't get much better in the second quarter as Greece built a 25-14 halftime advantage.
Early in the second half, the blue-and-white still allowed points on nearly every Greek attack and had their ability to defend limited by committing five fouls in the first four minutes of the third period.
Papadopoulos and Zisis three built the lead to 32-16.
Back-to-back-to-back threes by Burstein and Tapiro, combined with aggressive play inside by Green, helped Israel cut the deficit to 10. Then Sharon Sasson and Yotam Halperin both connected from behind the arc to bring Israel to within 45-41.
Papadopoulos ended an 11-0 Israel run with a pair of free throws and Vasileios Spanoulis made a layup to put Greece up by eight at the end of the period.
In the fourth it took Israel nearly three minutes to get on the board via a Moshe Mizrahi trifecta.
With three minutes remaining Marckovich scored to make it 57-53, but Mizrahi missed on Israel's next possession and a minute later Marckovich was called for a questionable unsportsmanlike foul on Zisis. After the Greek guard netted the free throws, Halperin drew a foul from Kakiouzis andpulled Israel to 59-56 with his third three.
However Greece had answer for every Israeli basket this time a Kakiouzis three.