(photo credit: Israel Basketball Association)
Two down, six to go.
After claiming impressive victories in its first two
EuroBasket 2011 qualifiers, Israel will look to extend its perfect start on
Wednesday night and take another step towards a 10th straight qualification for
the European Championships when it visits Finland in Espoo.
team trounced Latvia by 22 points at the Nokia Arena on Sunday, displaying the
best of Israeli basketball.
Arik Shivek’s men not only scored 110 points,
but did so while hitting 16 of 25 shots from three-point range and passing a
massive 32 assists.
The blue-and-white ran at every chance, turning its
lack of big men into an advantage to steamroll the poor Latvians.
paper, the game in Finland should be no different, especially with the hosts
still searching for their first win of the campaign.
However, Shivek is
particularly wary of the Finns, believing from the start of the campaign that
the encounter in Espoo could prove crucial to Israel’s qualification
“I said at my first press conference that we need to be especially
careful in the games against Finland,” Shivek said.
“At the draw everyone
talked about Italy and Montenegro and Latvia, but I said the game we need to
watch out for the most and be ready for is Finland. We haven’t got time to make
too many changes, but I trust my players to make the right
“Finland beat France and Italy last year and it will be
difficult to play at their home. They are tough and aggressive on defense and we
must remember Israel has always struggled in road games.”
biggest concern ahead of Wednesday is the Fins three-point shooting. Finland
attempted 23 triples in each of its qualifiers to date and after hitting only
six shots in the home defeat to Montenegro, showed some improvement by dropping
13 efforts in the road loss to Italy.
Teemu Rannikko is the Fins danger
man, averaging 23.5 points per game while scoring seven of 16 three-pointers so
“We had a very good game against Latvia and we need to prove on
Wednesday that we are professionals who can remain consistent,” said Omri
Casspi, who led Israel with 21 points on Sunday.
“I have no doubt Finland
will throw everything at us and do everything to beat us after suffering two
losses so far.
They will bring a lot of energy in front of their home
fans, but we need to keep doing what we’re doing.”
coach Pekka Salminen knows Israel has a superior roster, but he is hoping the
hosts can spring a surprise.
“Israel is an excellent team,” Salminen
said. “They have very good offensive weapons and we saw that against Latvia. The
key for us will be our defensive play.”
While Casspi and Yotam Halperin
are making all the headlines, Tal Burstein’s contribution has gone
The veteran scored 14 points in a perfect shooting night
against Latvia, but far more importantly he is the glue of the team,
those by his side play better as well.
“We really enjoyed ourselves
against Latvia and I hope we continue this way,” Burstein said. “We are
good position in the group and we must maintain the same level of
every game and every opponent.”