By Kevin Anselmo
Behind the all-around play of Dirk Nowitzki, ample help from the supporting cast and a large run to start the fourth quarter, Germany silenced the large Slovenian crowd with a 76-62 victory over Slovenia in the quarter-finals of EuroBasket 2005.
Germany qualify for FIBA World Championship 2006 in Japan and will take on the winner of Spain's quarter-final with Croatia.
"The Slovenians underestimated us," said Nowitzki. "They said we were the team they wanted and that was wrong, you shouldn't do that in the quarter-finals."
While Nowitzki was his usual self with 22 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, guards Pascal Roller, Mithat Demirel and Demond Greene provided crucial offence as Germany upset the Slovenians.
The trio combined for seven of 11 from three-point range.
Roller, who made a pair of crucial three-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Demirel each had 15 points while Greene 10.
The turning point in the game came midway through the third quarter when Sani Becirovic came up with a steal for Slovenia but missed his lay-up as Germany hustled back on defence.
Becirovic and his coach, Ales Pipan, complained that he had been fouled but the referee took exception and called a technical foul on Pipan.
Nowitzki made two free throws to start an 8-0 run that put Germany in command.
Germany then pressed home their advantage at the start of the fourth quarter.
With a 52-47 lead going into the fourth, Germany went on a 15-2 after a three-point shooting tear.
Roller opened with back-to-back threes, Robert Garret connected from the right wing and a Nowitzki bomb from the top of the key gave Germany a 66-49 lead with 6:05 remaining.
Germany cruised home from there and a jubilant German squad celebrated an upset victory. Supporters of both teams stood and applauded as the final buzzer sounded in appreciation of a hard-fought battle.
Slovenia were plagued by terrible shooting, particularly in the final quarter. The team with the top record in Group C shot 32% in the game – 28% in the fourth quarter when they also committed four turnovers.
For the third consecutive quarter-final, the team that finished in the top of their group failed to advance.
Greece upset Russia and France defeated Lithuania in the other quarter-final clashes.
Slovenia started slow, missing 11 of their first 13 attempts from the floor as Germany jumped out to a 13-4 lead. Nowitzki was accountable for just one field goal during the spurt.
Germany´s defence was intense and both Nowitzki and Patrick Femerling had emphatic blocks.
The run continued as Demirel hit his second three-pointer of the quarter to give the Germans a 19-6 lead. Nowitzki went to the bench for a breather with just over a minute remaining and Slovenia promptly scored the next five points.
Demirel continued his strong first quarter by hitting a driving lay-up with three seconds remaining and Germany finished the first quarter up 21-12 lead. Slovenia finished four-of-19 from the field in the first quarter.
Germany's impressive first quarter offence quickly went in a different direction in the second. The Germans didn't score for the first 5:24 after the restart, missing on their first 11 field goal attempts.
Nowitzki finally stopped the drought with a mid-range jumper. On Slovenia's ensuing possession, Primoz Brezec scored his eighth point of the second quarter with a lay-up to give Slovenia a 24-23 lead with 3:34 to go in the half.
Germany's offence got back on track as they hit their final three field goals, which included a Nowitzki four-point play. Jaka Lakovic´s three-pointer as time expired in the half tied the game at 34.
The teams went back and forth in the third until Germany opened a nine-point lead following three-pointers by Demond Greene and Pascal Roller with four minutes to go in the quarter. Slovenia cut the lead to five at 52-47 as the third quarter came to a close.
Slovenia suffered their first loss of EuroBasket 2005 and will try to beat the loser of Spain-Croatia in order to secure a top six finish which is needed to qualify for the FIBA World Championship.