Pair of tight triumphs has Israel at 2-0 in the EuroBasket preliminary round

Avdija & co. follow up overtime dramatics vs Finland with a 4th-quarter rally to beat the Netherlands.

 DENI AVDIJA has been Israel’s high scorer with 21 and 23 points, respectively, in victories over Finland and the Netherlands to open the blue-and-white Eurobasket campaign. (photo credit: FIBA)
DENI AVDIJA has been Israel’s high scorer with 21 and 23 points, respectively, in victories over Finland and the Netherlands to open the blue-and-white Eurobasket campaign.
(photo credit: FIBA)

Israel came from behind to stop Holland 74-67 late Saturday night as Deni Avdija and Yam Madar closed out the game late in the fourth quarter to move the blue-and-white’s Eurobasket record to 2-0.

After the Israelis’ dramatic overtime victory over Finland on Friday, the Netherlands gave Guy Goodes’s squad everything it could handle and then some as Maurizio Buscaglia’s team controlled the game from the get-go.

However, stellar play by Washington Wizards forward Avdija and clutch shooting by Partizan Belgrade and Boston Celtics draft stash Madar helped Israel to the win.

Next up for Israel is an early Monday afternoon date with Poland, where a victory will secure a place in the knockout round-of-16, which is being held in Berlin.

Following the Poland game, the blue-and-white will tip-off against Serbia on Tuesday evening and close out the group stage in Prague against the host nation Czech Republic.

 WHILE STILL only 21, Deni Avdija has the presence of a grizzled veteran on the Israel National Team, which tips off its Eurobasket campaign this weekend (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN) WHILE STILL only 21, Deni Avdija has the presence of a grizzled veteran on the Israel National Team, which tips off its Eurobasket campaign this weekend (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)

Poland comes into the game with a record of 1-1 after winning its first group stage game over the Czech Republic, while falling to Finland in the second matchup.

“The first half we didn’t play aggressive defense and allowed Holland who drives and shoots from inside to do just that,” Goodes said. “The second half was a totally different game as we scored a lot and played defense. It wasn’t an easy game to come into after the win over Finland, but these tournament games have a life of their own and we now have two wins.”

“We struggled a little bit against zone and matchup zone,” Buscaglia remarked. “I’m sorry, I have to help my guys better. It’s my fault, because the guys put the energy and effort on the floor, it’s my job to try and give them better help. It’s one tough loss, the first to fault is me.”

“I’m sorry, I have to help my guys better. It’s my fault, because the guys put the energy and effort on the floor, it’s my job to try and give them better help. It’s one tough loss, the first to fault is me.”

Maurizio Buscaglia

Holland came out strong after falling to Serbia in its opener with solid play from Mohamed Kherrazi and captain Worthy De Jong, while Israel countered with points from Avdija and point guard Tamir Blatt.

It was the Dutch who grabbed a 40-32 lead at halftime.

However, Israel chipped away at the lead with inside points from Roman Sorkin as well as Avdija, and shaved the Holland lead down to 51-50 with 10 minutes to go.

Buscaglia’s side kept pressuring Israel, with three-pointers by Yannick Franke and De Jong to stay in front, but big buckets by Avdija and Madar including a very deep downtown triple by the latter gave Israel the lead for good as it wrapped up a second consecutive tight triumph.

Avdija was the game’s high scorer with 21 points, Madar finished with 14 points while Sorkin checked in with 10 points in the win. De Jong paced Holland with 12 points, Charlie Kloof added 11 points and Kherrazi chipped in with 10 points in the defeat.

“We didn’t come with the right energy and the mindset,” Blatt said. “But I’m happy that we showed character and stuck together. We pulled out a win, which is important for us. We now have a day to recover and move on from there.”

In the opening game of the tournament, Israel got off to a rough start as Finland took control of the game from the get-go as Lauri Markkanen, the brand new member of the Utah Jazz, did as he pleased to help his team to a 27-16 lead after the opening quarter.

Avdija playing catalyst

However, the blue-and-white started chipping away at the lead as Guy Pnini calmed down the troops while Avdija played catalyst as he nailed a triple over Markkanen to gain confidence as crafty Israel found a way to knot the game up at 40-40 by halftime.

Nimrod Levi and Tomer Ginat got the second half underway with important buckets, while Avdija and Israel held Markkanen to no points in the frame,

But the big man came back with a huge fourth quarter to send the game into overtime tied up at 79-79.

The extra period saw Israel gain the upper hand with points by Avdija, Rafi Menco and Gal Mekel to wrap up the two-point win.

“Finland scored a lot of points on the fast break but we made a comeback,” Goodes noted. “We came focused and played together and had fun at the end. Every possession was crucial and we had to focus on the mental side, it was important that we started with a win.”

Pnini also spoke about the victory.

“We are very happy about the win and we knew the first game of the tournament was very important and crucial. It was a tight game and at the end we made the big shots and Deni Avdija made a couple of enormous big plays. Now we have to focus on the Holland game.”

Avdija led Israel with 23 points and 15 rebounds, Ginat added 13 points, Levi and Pnini each scored 10 points, while Blatt scored eight points and added 10 assists in the win.

Goodes’s squad turned the ball over only nine times and grabbed 44 rebounds, with 19 coming on the offensive glass, while dishing out 26 assists.

Markkanen paced Finland with 33 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.