|The lethal duo of Omri Casspi and Lior Eliyahu combined for 45 points, with the latter also adding a monster five blocks on the defensive end, to lead Israel to victory over Serbia|
Israel put their 0-2 start to the EuroBasket Qualification Round firmly in the past on Tuesday night by beating Serbia, 89-76.
In arguably the hardest of all the six qualifying pools, Group A, the Israelis, Serbians and Estonians are all now 3-2 behind Montenegro (5-0).
Serbia travelled to Tel Aviv on the back of wins over Slovakia and Estonia and looking to take a big step towards next year's Final Round in Slovenia but they never led in the game.
Instead, Arik Shivek's side went in front by as many as 17 before walking off the court with a 13-point triumph.
That margin of victory could prove vital by the end of the Qualification Round if a tie-breaker is needed.
Israel were on top of Serbia in the fourth quarter of their EuroBasket 2011 showdown before falling.
One big difference between that team and this year's edition is the presence of Cleveland Cavalier Omri Casspi in the Israeli line-up.
The only Israeli to ever compete in the NBA, Casspi led all scorers with 23 points on Tuesday.
Lior Eliyahu and Yogev Ohayon also had hot hands for Israel with 22 and 19 points, respectively.
Ohayon, the starting playmaker, also had three assists and seven rebounds in his almost 36 minutes of action.
Israel seized the initiative in the first quarter.
With the score 8-8, Casspi buried a three-pointer and then he and Ohayon scored with lay-ups.
The two players went on to account for all of the scoring a 15-0 run that put Israel in command at 23-8 with 2:57 to play in the first quarter.
Every time Serbia attempt to surge back into contention, Israel came up with a big play.
When Milos Teodosic struck from behind the arc with 20 seconds to go in the second quarter, Dusan Ivkovic's team had a chance to go to the break with some momentum.
Guy Pnini and Israel would have none of it.
Pnini hit a three-ball right before the half-time break after catching a pass from Casspi, who had 17 points by the interval.
Three times Serbia closed the gap to seven in the third quarter but Israel kept them at bay.
A run by the visitors at the start of the last quarter brought them to within five points.
Zoran Erceg tipped in a missed lay-up by Milan Macvan and both Teodosic and Ivan Paunic scored on drives to reduce the deficit to 67-62 with 7:12 remaining.
Shivek called a timeout and that stopped the comeback in its tracks, because Eliyahu drew a foul and made two free-throws and Alex Tyus scored on an alley-oop after being fed by Yotam Halperin.
Serbia got no closer than six points the rest of the way.