(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel got a much-needed confidence boost before the start of the European Championships next week by beating Poland 82-70 in Rishon Lezion on Sunday in its penultimate warm-up game ahead of the EuroBasket tournament.
The national team won just two of its first seven preparation games this summer, with coach Arik Shivek rarely having a full roster at his disposal due to injuries and personal problems.
Star-forward Omri Casspi will likely fail to recover from his knee injury in time to play in the championships in Lithuania, which get under way next Wednesday, but Shivek has at least got the rest of his players back in the fold and he was encouraged by Sunday’s performance.
“It is important we won this game,” Shivek said. “We began the game terribly on defense, but as soon as we played with enthusiasm we were much better. The most important thing for me is that we made a significant progress from our last game.”
Casspi went down with a knee injury just under two weeks ago, with an MRI revealing a slight tear in his left knee ligaments.
Shivek was hoping that Israel’s only NBA player will recover on time for
the tournament, but Casspi was very pessimistic on Sunday.
“Right now my leg is in a bad state,” the Cleveland Cavilers forward
said. “I’m undergoing treatment every day, but to be honest it is not
looking good. We will make a final decision on Tuesday.”
One option that is being considered is registering Casspi for the
tournament in the hope that he will be fit for the second round, which
begins on September 7.
However, Israel will have a tough time just making it through from the
first stage, facing Germany in its Group B opener on August 31 before
playing Latvia, Serbia, France and Italy.
Only the top three teams in each group will advance to the last 12.
The blue-and-white got Sunday’s game off to a disappointing start, trailing 20-16 after 10 minutes.
However, a 10-0 run put Israel in front and the hosts led by six points (34-28) at the break.
Israel extended its margin to double digits by the end of the third
period (55- 45) and cruised in the fourth quarter on its way to an
Lior Eliyahu led the hosts with 19 points and seven rebounds, with Yotam
Halperin contributing 15 points and Yaniv Green adding 11 points and
seven rebounds for Israel, which will face David Blatt’s Russia in its
final warm-up game on Wednesday.