Sacré bleu! Israel dismantled by France

For the second time in less than 24 hours, Israel found itself completely out of its depth at the EuroBasket tournament.

September 2, 2011 03:12
3 minute read.
ONE OF the impressive aspects of Arik Shivek’s squad at the just-completed EuroBasket qualifiers was

Basketball 311. (photo credit: FIBA EUROPE)

For the second time in less than 24 hours, Israel found itself completely out of its depth at the EuroBasket tournament, falling to an 85-68 defeat to France in Siauliai, Lithuania, on Thursday evening.

Just like in Wednesday night’s opener against Germany, Israel had all but lost the encounter early into the second half, looking helpless against a team clearly superior in every facet of the game.

Despite trailing by 10 points after 10 minutes (24-14), the blue-andwhite came back to take the lead in the second period (35-34), only to see France go on an 18-0 run and all but clinch the victory at the start of the second half.

Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin scored 15 points each for Israel, with David Blu adding 14. However, for a second straight night, Israel shot just 41 percent from the field (23 of 56) and was humbly outrebounded 40-20.

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker had 21 points and eight assists for France, with Nicolas Batum contributing 15 points and six steals.

“We began the game well, controlling the pace and not allowing Parker to score in the open court,” Israel coach Arik Shivek said.

“However, in the last minute-and-ahalf of the second period we lost our composure and good teams only need a few minutes to win the game. Unfortunately, we lost our focus and from that moment we struggled to come back.”

Perhaps the most worrying part for Israel after being outplayed in two straight games is the fact that it faces what is considered to be the best team in the group in Serbia on Friday afternoon.

“For me Serbia is the strongest team in the group,” Shivek said. “We are facing a really tough encounter, but as long as we have any chance we will fight.

“This isn’t the time to start trying to explain what has happened so far.

We need to just focus on our next game. I had hoped some things would look different and there are things we can improve on, but our opponents are forcing their style of play on us.”

Serbia enters Friday’s game with a 2-0 record after beating Latvia 92-77 on Thursday.

Serbia began the game with a 19-2 run, and despite allowing Latvia back into the contest, cruised to the victory in the fourth period.

Nenad Krstic led Serbia with 23 points, with Rolands Freimanis scoring 19 points for Latvia, which plays Israel on Sunday.

“Israel is a very experienced team,” Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic said.

“They have wonderful guards who can shoot well and also control the game. We have a big advantage under the baskets and we hope to make the most of it.”

It took Israel almost three minutes to score its first points against France, but Guy Pnini’s three-pointer brought the blue-and-white within a single point (4-3).

However, it wouldn’t be long before the French surged ahead, taking advantage of careless Israel turnovers.

Batum’s three-point play opened a 14-6 margin and Parker’s triple to end the first quarter gave France a double-digit gap (24-14) after 10 minutes.

A Nando De Colo three 90 seconds into the second quarter increased France’s lead to 28-14, but just when it seemed that the national team was heading to another humiliating defeat, the blue-and-white mounted an unexpected comeback.

It all started with a Shivek time-out after which Israel went on a 13-0 run, with Eliyahu’s basket closing the gap to a single point (28-27) with 5:30 to play in the first half.

A Blu three with two minutes remaining in the quarter completed the comeback, giving Israel a 35-34 advantage, but France would end the half with an 8-0 push.

Joakim Noah led the way for France, scoring the final five points of the period to give Les Bleus a seven-point lead (42-35) at the break.

Israel’s barren run continued at the start of the second half and France didn’t take long to open an unassailable margin.

Noah was doing as he pleased under the basket while Batum and Parker sliced the Israel defense at will, and after four third period minutes, the French had a 17-point cushion (52-35).

Halperin finally scored Israel’s first points of the half after more than four-and-a-half minutes, but it was too little too late, with France taking a 16-point gap into the fourth quarter and cruising in the final 10 minutes.

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