Italy came back for a 10-point fourth quarter deficit before beating Germany 84-82 in overtime on Friday in Vrsac to take the early lead in Group A of the 2005 EuroBasket.
Giacomo Galanda hit two three-pointers in the extra session as Italy stretched their unbeaten winning streak against Germany in EuroBasket competitions to 11 games.
Gianluca Basile scored 12 of his 25 points as Italy went on a 15-4 fourth-quarter run to turn a 64-54 deficit into a 69-68 lead.
|Gianluca Basile had 25 points for Italy|
"It was a tough loss. When you have a chance to beat Italy and a nice little lead in the fourth, it's tough. They battled hard," German coach Dirk Bauermann said.
Germany struggled offensively in the first half, and Carlo Recalcati's team jumped to a 10-point lead at 38-28 on a driving layup by Stefano Mancinelli with less than a minute in the half.
Germany's second-half hopes brightened as Marco Pesic hit a three-pointer with five seconds left and Nowitzki hit a desperation three at the buzzer for the 38-34 halftime score.
Femerling proved too much down low over a seven-minute stretch and helped the Germans build a 64-54 lead with 7:38 left in the game.
But Italy grabbed a half-dozen offensive rebounds and Basile capped off the brilliant effort with a three-pointer to start the 15-4 run.
"That was a big possession," Dante Calabria said. "And we had good shots too and missed them. But that was a confidence builder."
"We had them where we wanted them," Germany's Sven Schultze said. "And we had the last second shot (by Nowitzki)."
Basile hit two free throws to push the lead to 74-71 before Roller hit his three-pointer with 24.7 seconds left in regulation.
In the extra session, Galanda's first three made it 81-76. Nowitzki answered to make it 81-81. But Galanda struck a second time with 34 seconds left after Nowitzki failed to block his shot.
The 2003 bronze medalists and 2004 Olympic silver medalists Italy next face Russia in the first game on Saturday followed by Germany against Ukraine.
Olympic silver medalists and 2003 EuroBasket bronze-winning Italy look to continue their continental dominance against Germany on Friday when both sides begin their quest for 2005 gold in Vrsac.
Italy have never lost to the Germans in 10 EuroBasket matches. Their last matchup came at Sweden 2003 as Massimo Bulleri made four free throws in the waning moments to give Italy an 86-82 victory in the elimination round.
The Azzurri bettered their performance at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, collecting silver.
But Recalcaiti's troops will be the hunted instead of the hunters at EuroBasket 2005.
"If we want to reach the podium again, our team ethic has to be stronger than the others," said Recalcati, whose team is in Group A with Germany, Russia and Ukraine. "If not, we're a normal team, like all the others, able to beat anybody and that at the same time can be beaten by all the others."
Italy are fighting some injury concerns as their starting backcourt of Gianluca Basile (back) and Gianmarco Pozzecco (right thigh) were both banged up late in the preparation phase to EuroBasket.
And the team has admitted it's fatigued coming into the tourney.
"We are probably the oldest team going into the EuroBasket tournament, and we haven't quite adapted to this situation," said Recalcati, who will also rely on Alex Righetti, Dante Calabria and Roberto Chiacig.
Germany and their Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki will be out for revenge for the loss in Sweden as well as their 97-79 pounding against Italy in a warmup on September 6 in Athens.
And Nowitzki will obviously be the key for Dirk Bauermann's team.
A big help for Nowitzki will be the return of Panathinaikos Athens center Patrick Femerling, who was out with a knee operation.
"Patrick's overall presence makes him one of the best defensive centers in Europe and an important option in the offence;" Bauermann said.
But the 1993 European champions have been decimated by injuries, missing veteran Ademola Okulaja, Steffen Hamann and Stefano Garris.
The later two are guards, which could prove Germany's weak spot - especially against Italy's strong backcourt.
The Germans gave up 19 turnovers in their final warmup against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Germany-Italy game will be followed later Friday by the Russia-Ukraine showdown.