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Serbia struggles continue with loss to Israel in major fight for Group L third place
TEL AVIV (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Serbia's struggles in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers continued as they lost 83-74 at Israel on Friday and find themselves in a serious fight for the third spot in Group L.
Guy Pnini nailed five three-pointers in scoring 18 points while Jake Cohen had 14 points and Tamir Blatt came close to a triple double with 10 points and 9 assists as Israel claimed their first win of the Second Round and improved to 4-5 on the Road to China 2019.
Meanwhile Serbia, World Cup runners-up in 2014, have dropped three of their last four games and are now 5-4 - dealing a blow to their chances of booking a ticket to China. Dragan Milosavljevic paced the visitors with 17 points while Miroslav Raduljica added up 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals but also had 9 turnovers.
Turning point: With the game knotted 74-74, Blatt nailed a three-pointer and followed that with a steal against Stefan Peno. The 21-year-old Israeli guard then threw up a fantastic assist to Yovel Zoosman for a three-point play and Blatt grabbed yet another steal which resulted in two Guy Pnini free throws for a 81-74 lead with 1:21 minutes left.
Game hero: Blatt was all over the place, with his 10 points and 9 assists, also hitting a trifecta of three-pointers in the huge win.
Stats don’t lie: Israel forced Serbia into 22 turnovers while giving it up just 9 times themselves, which helped them neutralize Serbia’s 37-22 rebounding advantage. Israel ended up getting 21 points off turnovers compared to Serbia’s 6 points.
Bottom line: Serbia missed a chance to create some breathing room between themselves and the other competitors for the third spot in the group. Now with a 5-4 mark, they are just one game ahead of Israel in the standings while Georgia can also pull to 4-5 if they beat Estonia later on Friday. The Serbs next face a huge game at home on Monday against Greece while Israel travel to Tbilisi to take on Georgia.
What they said: "I'm very proud of the players and those who play more, those who play less. But I'm really happy for this win because as Guy (Pnini) said in the last window we played good basketball but we didn't come away with the wins. It was especially tough to lose the game in Germany. It feels like we're getting better, we have a better chemistry, our young players are playing with a lot of confidence. I'm really happy for Israeli basketball. Finally we succeed to come away with a big win because it was very important. I really liked the way we played, the spirit. It was amazing to play here in front of that amazing crowd. It was really fun." - Israel head coach Oded Katash
"It was a big win for us, an important one after the last window when we had two tough losses. We bounced back, we played well and we got the win so we're happy." - Israel forward Guy Pnini
"Israel is a tough team. They were playing against Germany team which is absolute favorite in our group. They were up by 20 maybe 30 minutes into that game. So this is a team that knows how to play and is very well coached. They have really great talent at the guards positions, added three Euroleague players that really helped them out a lot. Today you can see that they played with experience. Guy Pnini was a key player at the end. In the key moments we didn't have an idea how to finish the game. Too many turnovers and a lot of them in the last three minutes of the game when the game was tied. But I'm pissed at my players because they didn't understand that every point is worth a castle and this is what we spent the last three timeouts talking about, especially the last two. We didn't understand the importance of the score, the basket difference. But you know coaching a team with 22 turnovers in a game like this... it was really, really tough for us. So as far as how the game went, I'm very proud of the effort but together with the effort, something else should be on the floor too. We paid a little bit at the end for our lack of creating with some of the inexperienced players that we have. We had 12 players but not all 12 were physically having the effort that is needed to play the game. That is not acceptable in my team and in Serbia national team." - Serbia head coach Aleksandar 'Sasha' Djordjevic
"It was a tough game for us. Tough loss. We knew it was going to be a hard game but we didn't play well in the key moments. They made a lot of tough shots and tough threes and we turned the ball over too much. With this amount of lost balls it's tough to play and to win. We have important games in front of us so we're going to fight." - Serbia guard Dragan Milosavljevic