By David Hein
Dirk Nowitzki's three-pointer with 27 seconds left gave Germany a 51-50 come-from-behind victory against Russia on Sunday and a showdown with Turkey for the right to reach the quarter-finals of the 2005 EuroBasket.
Nowitzki scored Germany's last 11 points and ended the game with 24 points and 19 rebounds while Andrei Kirilenko finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and eight steals for the Russians, who finished atop Group A and advanced to the quarter-finals despite Victor Khryapa missing a last second shot for the win.
"After the loss against Italy, it was important for us to win a close game," said Nowitzki, who also had three steals and two blocked shots.
"You have to give credit to both teams," offered Russian point guard J.R. Holden. "Both were playing great defense, and every shot was a big shot."
|It was a routine night for Dirk Nowitzki against Russia, 24 points and 19 rebounds |
The crowd at the Vrsac Millenium Center was clearly in favour of the Russians. And both teams started the game cold offensively amid high defensive pressure, resulting in a 10-8 first-quarter score with Kirilenko collecting six steals in the period
Russia's staunch defence held Germany scoreless over a seven-minute stretch in the first half, allowing them to build a 20-8 lead. Germany found their game a bit to make it 26-16 at the break.
"They just closed the door on us," German guard Misan Nikabatse said of the first half.
But Demond Greene added: "We knew that we were still in shape, and that we didn't hit anything in the first half."
Holden's three-pointer midway through the third made it 33-18. German coach Dirk Bauermann called a timeout, waking up his team which then went on a 16-2 run to make it 35-34.
"As long as we keep playing defense we knew that we would eventually find a rhythm," Bauermann said.
Nowitzki in that streak hit two three pointers and one free throw ending a 22-minute scoring draught for the Dallas Mavericks star.
Russia again pulled away, as Khryapa's layup made it 43-34 with 6:39 left. But Demond Greene and Nowitzki's back-to-back three-pointers and Nowitzki's two free throws evened it at 45-45 with 3:49 left.
Khryapa and Holden hit long-range jumpers to make it 50-46. But Germany came back yet again with the help two ball-handling turnovers in the final 77 seconds by Kirilenko. Nowitzki hit two free throws with just more than a minute and then hit the winner with 27 seconds left.
Bauermann knew the game would be won or loss with the ball in Dirk's hands. "I was telling him, you have to take every shot. If it doesn't come from you it won't come from anybody."
Russia will play either Greece or Israel in the semi-finals while Germany would face Slovenia if they beat Turkey on Tuesday in Vrsac.