The Israel men’s national basketball team is now off to a 2-0 start in Group D play after defeating the Netherlands on Saturday evening in Prague, Czech Republic.
The first half was not good for the Israelis. They managed to finish the first quarter with an 18-all tie against the Orange Lions. But the Dutch got hot in the second quarter and took an 11 point lead, though Israel managed to keep the deficit in single digits. The halftime score as 40-32 Netherlands, with the Lions shooting over 50 percent from the field and the Israelis well under 40.
After the second quarter began, Israel traded baskets with the Dutch, but were ultimately able to get on a run toward the end of the quarter to get the deficit down to one heading into the fourth quarter 51-50 with none other than Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija scoring 6 of his game-high 21 points in the period to help the Israelis stay in the contest. And this was when the Dutch ran out of firepower.
The game remained even until the fourth quarter with both teams exchanging leads until Avdija got into “dagger mode,” making a go-ahead basket with just under three minutes left. And then he made a step-back three with just over 2 minutes left to put the game out of reach.
Avdija also had a nice block here in the second quarter, which I’d like to see more of once the Wizards’ season starts.
In addition to Avdija, Yam Madar scored 14 points and made 4-of-8 threes for the Israelis. For the Netherlands, Worthy de Jong led with 12 points and 4 rebounds.
As I wrote yesterday in the preview, no team should ever be counted out for any reason. That’s going to be why the Netherlands will play with a chip on their shoulder as they did tonight. The Orange Lions showed that they could hang with the Israelis for the duration of this game. If Avdija made one or two less baskets, this recap could have been along the lines of the “Dutch upsetting the Israelis.” In addition, the Netherlands led for 28 minutes of this contest and were playing better basketball for most of the night.
Also, the Lions were able to play competitively against Serbia yesterday for some significant stretches. So while this loss was disappointing for the Netherlands, who don’t have any NBA players, it is a step in the right direction for basketball in their country and the Benelux as a whole.
The Israelis play Poland next on Monday at 8 a.m. ET. If they can win this game, it’s possible that Israel could guarantee their spot in the elimination rounds. The Top 4 teams in each group move onto this round, so hopefully Avdija and his national team can get the job done.