Continuing a strong run, the Israeli men’s national basketball team beat Spain Saturday night in a qualifier game for the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 tournament, placing them in a prime position to make it to the quadrennial competition.
The game, held on Spanish home turf in the coastal city of Valencia, finished 95-87 to Israel after a comeback in the last two-quarters of the game.
Spain won the last EuroBasket tournament in 2015 and is ranked by FIBA as the second-best team in the world after the United States. Israel is currently ranked 41st.
After a slow start that saw it trailing after the second quarter 36-52, Israel rallied in the second half of the game thanks to Hapoel Jerusalem point guard Tamir Blatt, who scored a total of 21 points and nine assists to lead the Israeli squad.
The team was without star Deni Avdija, who was picked ninth overall in the NBA draft by the Washington Wizards last week.
Yam Madar, who was the 47th pick for the Boston Celtics, did play, picking up 11 points overall.
The @Celtics got a good one ????
— FIBA EuroBasket (@EuroBasket) November 28, 2020
Spain was also without a number of its top players.
Israel is now top of qualifying Group A, having won all of the three games it has played so far. In February, the national team beat both Poland and Romania, the other two teams in the group.
Israel is now a single win from qualifying for the EuroBasket, which could be achieved Monday when Israel again plays Poland.
Spain sits third in the group with just one win from its three games, ahead of Romania with three losses and behind Poland with two wins.
The EuroBasket competition was originally scheduled to take place in September 2021, but was pushed off a year to September 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics to 2021.
In 2019, Israel’s national under-20 team beat Spain in the final of the FIBA European Championships, which was hosted in Tel Aviv, to defend its title for the second year in a row.