31 August, 2017
17 September
23 Lauri Markkanen (FIN)
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Magical Markkanen does it again; Israel get the party started in Tel Aviv

HELSINKI/TEL AVIV (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - The tempo at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 continued to rise on Sunday, as Lauri Markkanen sealed his name in Finnish folklore and Israel came back to defeat Germany.

After taking his team to the overtime victory on opening night against France; the 20-year-old Markkanen came up trumps again on Sunday as Finland eventually overcame Poland 90-87. An injury doubt going into the vital Group A clash against Poland, Markkanen stole and dunked to tie the game late in regular time, sending the 11,360-strong crowd into pandemonium. All this after Finland had been down by 8 with 51 seconds left on the clock.

With a fade-away jumper, reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki, Markkanen was again the man at the end of the first over-time, capturing nothing but net to keep Helsinki Arena collectively gasping for five more minutes. Petteri Koponen, who has grown into playing the unfamiliar role of second fiddle for the national team this summer, then sealed the game, making one of two free-throws with six seconds remaining, as Poland proceeded to spill the ball on the final possession. 

Markkanen ended the night with 27 points and 9 rebounds, whilst Koponen had 21 points and 7 assists.

"You see how special he is when he plays," commented Finnish coach Henrik Dettmann on Markkanen following the game, when asked to draw comparisons between Markkanen and Nowitzki, whom Dettmann has also coached. "It is unfair to compare human beings. But now we talk about players from a different era. There is a lot of similarities in their games. The only thing we don't know is if Lauri will have the same work ethic Dirk has had. If he has then he will definitely reach the same level. He has skills, speed and understanding of the game." 

Down in Tel Aviv, the best action was saved for last. Israel, who had looked underwhelming in their opening two games, took it to Germany with the sides tied going into the half. The Germans appeared like they would run away with it in the third quarter, building a lead of 16 points. However, led by Richard Howell, Israel stormed back in the final frame, going ahead for good on a Guy Pnini triple with 28 seconds remaining.

Powell's 23 points were complemented by 20 from Omri Casspi.

"This is a big win that makes a lot of people happy," commented Israeli head coach Erez Edelstein. "Nothing came easy for us. I think we played very good basketball in a lot of parts of the game. The fans that saw this on TV also saw a high level of competition. We won, we will stay calm and humble and waiting for Tuesday." 

In what had been billed as the Group B showpiece, Lithuania lifted their campaign another gear with a clinical 78-73 win over previously undefeated Italy. Trailing 11-2, Lithuania woke up and, paced by Adas Juskevicius' 20 points, took the lead for good with the first points of the second quarter.

Despite playing without influential big man Viacheslav Kravtsov in Group B's early game, Ukraine produced a spirited 88-81 win over Georgia, for whom the wheels have slightly come off. After defeating Lithuania on Day 1, they have now dropped to the same 1-2 record as Ukraine.

In the Group A early game, all the Icelandic dignitaries in the world could not help the island nation, as they succumbed to France 115-79, with the nation's President and Prime Minister looked on from the crowd. For their part, France shot an incredible 68 percent from the field.

There were also more headaches for Greece in Group A, whose campaign is now hanging by a thread after they came unstuck at the brilliance of another teen prodigy Luca Doncic, and the old head, Goran Dragic. The pair combined for 42 points in Slovenia's 78-72 win, meaning the Slovenes are now 3-0 and all but confirmed of a spot in the Round of 16, whilst Greece drop to a lowly 1-2 with games against Finland and Poland remaining.