Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and grabbed five rebounds as Germany overwhelmed Ukraine 84-58 on Saturday in Vrsac to keep alive their chances of winning Group A at the 2005 EuroBasket.
The Germans bounced back well from their overtime loss to Italy and took charge of the game in the first quarter and never let the game slip out of their hands at the Millenium Center.
"The way the team bounced back from that loss and played today, the guys really deserve a great amount of respect," German coach Dirk Bauermann said.
|Dirk Nowitzki |
"We were especially motivated because we knew where we stood," Marco Pesic said.
Nowitzki and Co. face Russia on Sunday with a chance of heading Group A with a 15-point victory. While Ukraine - with two losses - take on Italy knowing not even a victory over the 2003 European bronze medallists and 2004 Olympic silver winners Italy will secure them a spot in Tuesday's elimination match.
The Dallas Mavericks star Nowitzki started the first quarter determined to take the ball to the basket to create foul situations - something he didn't do much against the Italians.
"Dirk is one of the best players in the NBA. And he knows his strengths. Yes, we talked about him going more to the basket, but I don't think it was really necessary," Bauermann said.
Led by Nowitzki, Germany used a 9-0 run to open an early 17-9 lead. Ukraine were able to stay within 12 for the rest of the half before Nowitzki hit a buzzer-beater for a 47-32 advantage with 18 points by Nowitzki.
"We won this game in the first half," Robert Maras said. "Holding onto the lead was important for us."
Like against Italy, Germany again proved strong coming out of the halftime break with an 8-0 run to make it 55-32.
"If you come out of the break with great fire and intensity, that's a great sign that the team is ready, in good shape and determined," Bauermann said.
Ukraine couldn't muster a challenge with the advantage going to 30 with four minutes left.
The Germans came into the tournament knowing they couldn't win only with Nowitzki. Patrick Femerling again stepped up with 10 points and six rebounds. Every German player scored, and the team shot 54 per cent from the field.
Ukraine was paced by Los Angeles Lakers forward Stanislav Medvedenko's 15 points while Serhiy Lischchuk scored 13 and Oleksiy Pecherov 10.
Stakes are high for Dirk Nowitzki and Germany on Saturday in Vrsac as a loss against Ukraine would put a major damper on Germany's chances on making the quarter-finals of the 2005 EuroBasket.
Germany must come back from a heart-breaking opening-night defeat against Italy, in which they overcame a 10-point first half deficit only to blow a 10-point lead with seven minutes remaining in losing 84-82 in overtime.
"We know that we can play with anyone," German forward Sven Schultze said. "Coach told us after the game, you have 10 minutes to be disappointed and then get ready to go against Ukraine."
Coach Dirk Bauermann said he was really pleased with the help Nowitzki got from point guard Pascal Roller and center Patrick Femerling, who combined for 32 points at the Millenium Center.
"Both guys played really well. It's too bad we didn't get enough help from the two and three positions," Bauermann said.
Bauermann also said Nowitzki is struggling to find his rhythm so far this summer. The Dallas Mavericks star made just 8/23 field goal attempts - just 4/14 from behind the arc in scoring 27 points.
"Everybody stays at home on him. And it's hard for him to find his rhythm. Plus he gets fouled almost every time he shoots the ball," Bauermann said.
"We have to find ways to get him the ball in more of a motion offence."
The German coach said his focus against the Ukrainians is to guard their outside shooters.
"Ukraine are a bit unorthodox. Sometimes they play a little wild and out of control. But they have really good shooters from the outside. And they can play a good fast game," Bauermann said.
Germany beat Ukraine twice last summer in the qualification for EuroBasket - by 20 and 26 points.
But Stanislav Medvedenko did not play either of those games.
And the Los Angeles Lakers forward will be highly motivated against the Germans after a poor performance in Ukraine's 86-74 loss to Russia.
Medvedenko fouled out after just 21 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbing four rebounds.
"I think it's hard for him because people expect a lot from him," Ukrainian guard Artem Butskyy said about Medvedenko. "But he can't win games alone.
The national team is not only him."
The Germany-Ukraine game follows the Italy-Russia encounter.