Dirk Nowitzki came up with another huge game and hit the game-winning shot with 3.9 seconds to go as Germany upset Spain 74-73 in Belgrade to advance to their first gold medal game at the EuroBasket since 1993.
After Juan Carlos Navarro´s floater in the lane gave Spain a 73-72 advantage with 14 seconds to go, the Dallas Mavericks superstar who has carried the German squad on his shoulders for all of the tournament, hit a baseline jumper over the outstrecthed arm of Jorge Garbajosa to put Germany back in front.
“It was indescribable,” Nowitzki said of the final shot. “After I looked at Navarro´s shot go in I thought to myself that I wanted to start my offensive move with six seconds left so that way we could get an offensive rebound. Garbajosa kind of pushed me towards the baseline so I just went with it.”
|Juan Carlos Navarro nearly won the game for Spain|
Spain called timeout and discussed their strategy.
They inbounded the ball to Jose Manuel Calderon and he drove past mid-court to just a few feet behind the arc and had a clean look at a three-pointer, but his shot clanked off the rim, putting Nowitzki and Co into a gold medal clash against Greece, who earlier stunned France.
As the buzzer sounded, Nowitzki circled the court with his right fist in the air and Germany´s squad celebrated a thrilling victory. They will look to continue their Cinderella story on Sunday after Spain take on France in the bronze medal contest.
Nowitzki finished with a game-high 27 points, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
He made five of 10 three-pointers, with Germany connecting on 13 of 33 as a team. Spain struggled, shooting two-of-19 from behind the arc.
"If we had a shot a higher percentage from three-point range, then perhaps the outcome would have been different," said Pesquera.
Navarro, one night after finishing with a tournament-best 36 points, finished with 27 points and Fran Vazquez added 15.
Spain lost, despite outrebounding Germany 39-22.
Trailing by three to start the fourth quarter, Germany opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run. Nowitzki scored five of those points with a tough fade away and a three-pointer.
“We had two bad stretches in the game,” said Pesquera.
After Spain broke the run, Nowitzki hit two more jumpers to give Germany their largest lead of 68-59 with 5:16 to go.
Spain were ice cold in the fourth quarter, scoring just two points through the first six minutes. However just when it appeared Germany had taken command, Spain mounted a late run.
Navarro hit two free throws with 2:06 to go, cutting Germany´s lead to five at 70-65.
After Denis Wucherer sank a 10-foot jump shot, Navarro answered with a lay-up and then added two free throws with 1:19 remaining after Pascal Roller´s turnover.
Germany again coughed the ball up with Mithat Demirel the guilty party, and Navarro hit a short jump shot to make it 72-71 with 48 seconds.
“We fought as a team, but we also made it difficult for ourselves,” Nowitzki said.
After Roller threw up a prayer with the shot clock running down and missed, Navarro once again came to the fore for his team, scoring the floater for the one-point lead.
Superman, aka Dirk Nowitzki, then struck with the dagger for the final margin, with Spain missing their last opportunity.
One night after a thrilling overtime victory over Croatia, Spain opened with a strong first quarter and jumped out to a 23-16 lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, Spain scored only 12 points but nevertheless led 35-34 as the half came to an end.
Germany´s poor shooting continued during the first five and half minutes of the third quarter. Nowitzki took just one shot and Germany scored five points and found themselves trailing 48-39.
Then Nowitzki connected on a three to end the drought and start Germany´s own 13-2 spurt to give the Germans a 52-50 lead – their first since the opening minutes of the game.
Spain closed the third quarter by going on a 7-2 run and were on top 57-54 going into the fourth.
Germany's best chance to clinch a spot in the 2005 EuroBasket final will be if Dirk Nowitzki's supporting cast can step up again. While Spain need another excellent performance from Juan Carlos Navarro to make their third final in the last four tournmants.
"As expected, Dirk got his. But we got a great performance from the rest of the guys against Slovenia," German coach Dirk Bauermann said. "Now we need another big game from them for us to beat Spain."
Nowitzki scored "just" 22 points in Germany's quarter-final victory over Slovenia. But point guards Pascal Roller and Mithat Demirel each tallied 15 points while shooting guard Demond Greene added 10 for Dirk Bauermann's team.
|Germany won their only EuroBasket medal in 1993|
"We're in the World Championships now. But everything's possible," Nowitzki said. "If you're in the semifinals, your goal has to be a medal."
Germany have only collected one EuroBasket medal in their history - the 1993 title with legendary coach Svetislav Pesic at the helm.
Germany - the 2002 World Championship bronze medalists - reached the semi-finals of the 2001 EuroBasket, only to lose to Turkey in overtime. The Nowitzki-led Germany team then lost to Spain in the game for third place to finish fourth - their only other top four showing.
Fans in Istanbul that evening in 2001 witnessed one of the best battles in EuroBasket history - as Nowitzki gathered 43 points and 15 rebounds while Spanish center Pau Gasol had 31 points and 10 boards.
Gasol will be at Belgrade Arena on Saturday - but only as a commentator for Spanish television.
"Germany are an excellent team with one very great superstar," Gasol said.
"But you cannot forget about the other players who are less known because they are also very dangerous."
Spain have never won a EuroBasket championship despite five times making the final. In order to make it to Sunday's gold medal match, Spain will have to recover from their 101-85 overtime victory against Croatia. Mario Pesquera's team went to overtime against Latvia in the group stage only to lose to Israel the next day.
“We need to recover quickly from this overtime game," the coach said. "The last time we had an extra-time game against Latvia we came out tired against Israel. So that is obviously of concern to us:"
He also said the strong point guard play of Roller and Demirel is a concern.
"We will need to do our best to slow them down and defend them well behind the three point line where they were dangerous against Slovenia,” Pesquera added.
Another key for Spain will be to force Germany's into an up-tempo contest - something they haven't had so far, scoring just 72 points per game compared to Spain's 95.
“We need to impose our fast pace style of play on Germany. We can’t let them slow it down," Spanish point guard Jose Calderon said.
And key to Spain's running game is Navarro, the tournament's leading scorer with 26.8 points a game.
As Navarro goes, so go Spain. The small quick shooting ace has averaged almost 33 points in Spain's three victories. In Spain's loss to Israel he scored just nine points on 2-10 shooting.
The winner will play either Greece or France in Sunday's gold medal game.