Croatia enjoyed the sweet taste of a win in a Group D game against Germany with an 81-73 triumph at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on Friday evening.
Following the losses of both sides on Day 1 the tension was high, but eventually Croatia earned the 1-1 record while Germany dropped to 0-2 and will fight for their chances to avoid the relegation games tomorrow.
|Boris Barac was good for 11 points and 5 rebounds as Croatia proved to be too much for Germany|
Croatia dominated the game from the start, but couldn't maintain their ability for 40 minutes.
Germany kept chasing the lead, and found a path to put Croatia in trouble, but couldn't make the stops to complete their run.
"It was a game of ups and downs," commented head coach of Croatia, Ante Nazor.
"One of our main players - Dario Saric - was in foul trouble and when he wasn't on the court, we had some difficulties, but I'm happy that we found the way to win this very important game."
Saric and Roko Rogic led the winners with 22 points each, Boris Barac added 11 and Toni Katic 10.
Germany saw 25 surprising points by Dennis Kramer while Philipp Neumann added 14 points and 7 rebounds.
Saric opened the game with a 3 pointer to ignite a 12-2 run, but Kramer hit twice from behind the arc to bring Germany back to 16-13 after 6 minutes.
Saric and Rogic from distance kept their team ahead, and back to back three pointers by the guard set the gap again on double-digits, 36-22 after 12 minutes.
Kramer and Neumann kept Germany in safe distance, but Saric with a jumper allowed Croatia a 46-39 lead at the break.
Croatia came back from the locker-room more focused, and soon scored the first 12 points in the 2nd half to take a 19 point lead, and the game seemed to be decided but Germany still had some tools to use.
"I guess we need to be in a deep-deep hole in order to start playing our game," said head coach Kay Blümel of the German team.
"We started to play well only after Croatia had a big lead. I believe it's a mental problem that put us in this situation and we'll try to solve it."
His team replied with a great step up on defense, and things started to connect at the other side as well.
A minute inside the closing quarter Martin Breunig slashed to the rim to finish with a big dunk that capped a 4-19 run and it was just a 4 point game, 62-58.
Saric and Katic pushed the gap back to 10, but Germany didn't let go yet.
After Saric fouled out Germany gave one last push and Kramer with 5 points in a row made it 75-73 with 68 seconds to play, yet Croatia didn't allow the pressure to make an effect.
Katic, Rogic and Marko Ramljak hit all the last 6 attempts from the foul line to keep the lead in their hands and lock a key win for Croatia.
"Tomorrow we have a very important game, and we can still recover from where we put ourselves. We just need to show up from the start," concluded Blümel.
Croatia will fight the unbeaten Greece in hope to win the group, while Germany have a date with Serbia that could turn out as a win-or-die game for both sides.