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Amid war, Israeli ballclub plays Nets

‘That there are terrible things and we still have hope. Our young people need to know there’s hope.’

NEW YORK (AFP) — Israel’s Maccabi Ra’anana lost to the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets 135-103 on Thursday to begin a US tour, but sent a defiant message with their determination to play.

The squad was already in New York last Saturday when Israel was struck by bloody attacks, Hamas gunmen killing more than 1,200 people and taking about 150 hostages.

“People at home said it was important we play, so the whole world will know nothing will break us,” Maccabi coach Yehu Orland told the New York Post.

“That there are terrible things and we still have hope. Our young people need to know there’s hope.”

The Israeli squad led 39-34 after the first quarter but the Nets seized a 74-60 half-time advantage and pulled away in the second half.

Mikal Bridges led Brooklyn with 23 points while Harry Giles had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Spencer Dinwiddie added 15 for the Nets.

Dwayne Bacon and Quinndary Weatherspoon each scored 17 points to lead Maccabi Ra’anana while Dakari Tucker added 14 points.

But the result was secondary in many ways to simply playing the contest.

“We got messages about bombs and missiles,” Maccabi forward Jonathan Mor told the newspaper of the team’s experience of Saturday.

“It was unbelievable. Everyone got on their phones and saw the videos. It was like something out of a horror movie. A bloodbath.

“I’m not gonna lie. Basketball feels kind of secondary right now.”

Before the contest, the Nets observed what the arena announcer called “a moment of silence in honor of all who lost their lives and to pray for peace.”

The lights were dimmed as players and fans paid their respects.

“The Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center condemn the terrorist attacks and mourn the senseless loss of life in Israel,” they said in a statement.

“We stand together against terror and our thoughts are with all who have been impacted by these tragic events.”

Nets center Nic Claxton said the team talked about canceling the game and admitted he thought the game should be called off “because there (are) bigger things going on in the world than basketball.”

Mor, however, said the game was important to showing life will go on even in the wake of atrocity.

“The scenes and pictures (from there) make you worry about friends and family, and I felt I was here without any purpose, I didn’t think basketball had any role,” he said.

“But if I can use it to explain what our people are feeling, maybe that can help to let everyone know the impact this has had on our people.

“This is what we’ve done for our entire history as a country.”

The team’s tour continues on Monday at Cleveland and Tuesday at Minnesota.


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