Casspi gets the better of Mekel in ‘Israeli’ NBA derby

Houston Rockets defeat Dallas Mavericks in first-ever NBA game between Israeli players.

Casspi, Mekel NBA 370 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Casspi, Mekel NBA 370
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel both shined on Friday night in the first-ever game between Israeli players in the NBA, with the former helping the Houston Rockets to a 113-105 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
After mediocre performances on opening night, small forward Casspi and point guard Mekel each made significant contributions on Friday in what was a one-sided Houston victory.
The 206-cm.-tall, Holon-born Casspi entered the game after just one minute following Turkish player Omer Asik’s two quick fouls. He hit two consecutive three-pointers to lead the hosts to an early lead.
Mekel, born in Petah Tikva and 191 cm. tall, also took to the floor in the first quarter, with Dallas already trailing by 10 points (20- 10). He immediately hit a jumper but the Mavs never really threatened to complete a comeback, coming within eight points (91- 83) with eight minutes to play, but coming no closer.
“It was exciting to meet Gal,” said Casspi, who scored 12 points, including three three-pointers, in 21 minutes, while also registering two rebounds and two assists.
“It is a real honor for Israeli basketball that two of its players are facing each other in the NBA. We are playing plenty of minutes and I’m glad that things went well for us today.”
Mekel ended the night with 11 points, hitting five of seven field goals while recording six assists and committing just one turnover in 23 minutes.
“It was fun to speak Hebrew during the game. Omri and I were talking about how far we have come since playing together at the youth level,” said Mekel, who like Casspi is 25 years old.
“We didn’t start the game very well, but I think we lost the contest in the third quarter when we missed an opportunity to come back,” the Dallas player said. “Personally, I had a good game. Whenever I’m on court I want to gain confidence and give my coaches the confidence that I’m here for the team.”
James Harden, who scored a game-high 34 points, ended his tug-of-war with the Mavericks’ German forward Dirk Nowitzki with 6:11 minutes remaining, drawing a foul while converting a driving layup to send the foul-plagued Nowitzki to the bench once and for all.
Harden completed the three-point play to boost Houston’s lead to 96-83.
Nowitzki finished with 22 points but only four rebounds as the Rockets’ interior tandem of Dwight Howard and Asik controlled the glass.
After totaling 40 rebounds against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday, Howard and Asik snagged 28 boards against the Mavericks (1-1).
Dallas forced Houston (2- 0) into 23 turnovers but converted those into only 18 points.
Reuters contributed to this report.