Rough opening night for Blue-and-White

The national team had hoped to surprise Germany in its first game in Group B in Siauliai, Lithuania, but it was completely outplayed in a 91-64 defeat.

By
August 31, 2011 23:49
4 minute read.
Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki weird face. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel’s EuroBasket campaign got off to a humbling start on Wednesday night.

The national team had hoped to surprise Germany in its first game in Group B in Siauliai, Lithuania, but it was completely outplayed in a 91-64 defeat, seriously complicating its situation in the European Championships.

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With the strong Serbia and France sides also in its group, and with only the top three teams advancing to the next stage, the blue-and-white had targeted the game against the Germans as the encounter which could decide the destiny of its tournament.

However, an 18-0 German run between the second and third quarters put Dirk Nowitzki and his teammates in complete control, rendering virtually all the second half as meaningless.

Guy Pnini had 20 points for Israel, with Lior Eliyahu adding 11, but the national team had absolutely no chance to win a game in which it was outrebounded 39-24 and scored just 41.1 percent from the field (23 of 56).

The Germans, on the other hand, hit 65.9% of their shots from twopoint range (27 of 41), with Nowitzki and Chris Kaman totally dominating the blue-and-white.

The NBA finals MVP had 25 points in 27 minutes, with Kaman scoring 18 points and taking 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.

“We played against a team with two top NBA players and everything we tried against them didn’t work,” Israel coach Arik Shivek said. “When you give your all and still fail that breaks your spirit and that’s what happened to us tonight. The Germans deserve credit for dictating their style of play and unfortunately for us they didn’t miss much tonight.”

Israel will have little time to wallow in the defeat to Germany as it already comes up against France in its second group game on Thursday afternoon.

France got its campaign off to a winning start on Wednesday, beating Latvia 89-78.

The French only pulled ahead in the final minutes of the encounter, going on an 11-2 run late in the fourth period to open a double-digit lead (83-72) on their way to an important win.

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker led France with 31 points and seven assists, with Boris Diaw adding 14 points, Mickael Gelabale scoring 11 and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah and Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum contributing 10 points each.

Janis Blums had 32 points for Latvia, which faces Israel on Sunday.

“Israel is always dangerous and it is more dangerous at the start of the tournament,” France coach Vincent Collet said. “We will have to defend well because Israel likes to run and has an impressive transition game.

We will have to slow Israel down if we want to win.”

Also in Group B, Serbia defeated Italy 80-68.

A 25-11 second period gave the Serbians control of the encounter, with Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic scoring 15 points for the winners and Andrea Bargnani leading the Italians with 22 points.

Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman exposed Israel’s vulnerability under the basket with the game’s very first possession, dunking the first two points of the night.

Six straight points by Nowitzki opened an 11-5 lead, but David Blu got Israel right back into the game with two consecutive three-pointers, tying the game at 11-11 with 3:35 to play in the first period.

The game seemed wide open after 10 minutes, with the Germans leading by a single point (15-14), but an 11-0 run to end the first half followed by a 7-0 surge after halftime all but clinched the win for Nowitzki and co.

A Pnini three with three minutes remaining in the first half after some nice ball movement brought the blue-and-white within three points (29-26), but Israel failed to score another point in the second period, and thanks to two triples by Robin Benzing and five Nowitzki points, the Germans held a comfortable 40-26 margin at the break.

Matters would only deteriorate in the second half, with a Nowitzki jumper less than two minutes into the third quarter opening a 21-point gap (47-26).

There might have still been almost a full half to play, but once Germany’s lead eclipsed 20 points, both coaches had already begun thinking of Thursday’s games, knowing they need to give their starters as much rest as possible with four more encounters to come over the next five days.

Shivek gave his bench players plenty of time to get accustomed with the arena in Siauliai, but Israel never came close to mounting a comeback and worryingly faces an even tougher game against France on Thursday.


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