It’s the Markkanen against Avdija show in Prague, as Israel edges Finland

2022-09-02T16:15:42+00:00 2022-09-02T23:34:48+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

02/Sep/22 16:15

Deni Avdija and Lauri Markkanen put on a fantastic show with double-double performances in the first game of Group D

By Eurohoops team/

Undefeated in official games in 2022 before EuroBasket 2022, Finland lost against Israel in overtime (89-87) in a very tough game decided in overtime in the first game of Eurobasket Group D.

For the vast majority of the game, it was a man-to-man duel between the superstars of the game: Deni Avdija was crucial for Israel with 23 points and 15 rebounds, while Lauri Markkanen put on a superb losing effort of 33 points and 11 rebounds, shooting almost perfectly (14/15 FG).

After being inserted in the Donovan Mitchell trade, moving from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Utah Jazz, the Finnish star proved to be in great shape.

However, the decisive play of the game came from the Washington Wizards‘ young talent in the last minute of the fourth quarter. An amazing defense against Markkanen did the rest.

Edon Maxhuni proved to have no fear in his EuroBasket 2022 debut. Finland’s floor general, who comes from a great season with Heroes Den Bosch, put up a significant 11 points and 6 rebounds performance, just like Alexander Madsen, who closed with 13 points. They were not enough.

“We made a lot of mistakes: our offense wasn’t running smoothly. They got 19 offensive rebounds, which was one of the key points. This is EuroBasket, the teams know each other pretty well”, Madsen said.

“We started the game well, we were ready for this battle. But during the game, they took control. Tomorrow is a new day. It’s a dream to play games like these in front of our fans: make sure we will come humble and angry, giving everything for them. It’s a pleasure to play in front of these fans”, coach Lassi Tuovi added.

Talking about Israel, ALBA Berlin’s Tamir Blatt played way more minutes than Yam Madar in the point-guard spot, finishing with 8 points and 10 assists. Tomer Ginat (13 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists) and Nimrod Levi (10 points and 5 rebounds) were also helpful.

“We’re very happy about the win. We knew that the first game of the tournament is crucial. It was a tight game and in the end, we managed to make the big shots. We need to focus on tomorrow’s game”, Guy Pnini commented.

At the beginning of the game, Finland was running and doing a lot of damage in the fast break. Close to halftime we came back and this gave us confidence, our guys came focused and played aggressively together: they had fun in the end. Every possession was crucial for both teams. It was a mental game for us because we came here after two losses, one against Finland away. This is a win we enjoyed, but tomorrow is a different game. An experienced player with a winner mentality like Guy Pnini gives a lot of confidence to the other players”, coach Guy Goodes added.

In an O2 Arena full of supporters, Lassi Tuovi’s team seemed in complete control until the half of the second quarter, when Guy Goodes’ boys came back to tie things up at halftime at 40-40. In the second half, the vast majority of Israelian offensive ideas came from Deni Avdija’s hands, including the three-point buzzer beater who sent the game to overtime. The last minutes turned into a back-and-forth show between Avdija and Markkanen, with Israel getting the upper hand.

Finland and Israel will play again tomorrow, respectively at 14:00 against Mateusz Ponitka’s Poland and at 21:00 against the Netherlands.