After a very impressive victory over Belgium Sunday night, Israel was unable to keep the momentum going Monday, losing to Germany 80-76, and as a result being eliminated from the EuroBasket tournament.
Playing in front of a crowd of almost 3,000 spectators in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Israel got off to a great start against Germany, taking a quick 16-8 lead. Leading the charge was combo guard Yotam Halperin, who scored 10 points in the first five minutes of regulation.
Head coach Arik Shivek opted not to make any substitutions until 1:20 left in the first quarter, showing he was very happy with the starters’ display. Israel ended that quarter with a strong 20-12 lead, after shooting a red-hot 58 percent from the field.
The second quarter was possibly the ugliest quarter Israel had played in the tournament. The team went four straight minutes without scoring a single point, missing shot after shot. Adding to the poor display, Halperin only scored two points in the quarter.
Despite the horrendous play, Israel headed into half-time only trailing by a point.
In the third quarter, the Germans hit back-to-back threes and never looked back. Israel was playing catch up the entire fourth quarter — and got close to taking the lead several times — but in the end the national team’s efforts fell short.
For the first time in the tournament, Omri Casspi and Lior Eliyahu played relatively strong games. Casspi scored 22 points and ripped down 13 rebounds while Eliyahu scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The usual scoring duo had struggled the entire tournament, finally showing flashes of brilliance when it was too late.
Overall, Israel finished a dismal 16 percent from three-point range, hitting only three of nineteen shots.
The Germans were led by former NBA draftee Tibor Pleiss, who scored several key baskets in the fourth quarter.
“In the first quarter we did a very good job,” said Shivek. “Then we lost concentration and it’s a pity for us. It’s the cruelest way to miss out on qualifying when you play against a team who is already out.”
Many commentators expected Israel to finish second in Group A and were shocked by Israel’s loss to Great Britain on Wednesday. That loss set the tone for the entire tournament. The blue-and-white will now return to Israel with many questions that need answering.