By David Hein
Lithuania nearly gave up a 21-point third quarter lead but held on just enough to beat Germany 84-80 and finish Group C of the 2007 EuroBasket undefeated at 3-0 going into the qualifying round.
Rimantas Kaukenas made two foul shots with 2.6 seconds left to secure the win while Sarunas Jasikevicius led the way with 15 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.
Darjus Lavrinovic had 18 points while Ramunas Siskausas chipped in 13 for the winners.
"We just need to keep plugging along. Over the past three days, we've come together as a team. As long as we keep improving we have a chance to do something. But as we all know the tournament is long," Jasikevicius said.
Germany trailed 60-39 midway through the third quarter but proceeded to drain six three-pointers to pull back to within two, 70-68, early in the final period.
The Germans missed four straight treys as they tried to take the lead before Lithuania pulled back ahead 79-70 with 2:55 to play.
|Nowitzki once again |
led the way for
Germany but they fell just short
Another three-pointer and two foul shots by Dirk Nowitzki made it 81-80 with 11 seconds left. Darius Songalia made just one of two foul shots with 9.6 seconds to play but Germany’s Ademola Okulaja was charged with an offensive foul on his drive back down the court with 4.3 seconds left, setting up Kaukenas's two foul shots.
"We played well at the start of the game. In the middle we started to have some problems. We had too much focus on Dirk Nowitzki and forgot the other players, who hit two or three unreal shots. We just played up and down. So the finish of the game was really big for us and now we can focus on our next opponent," said Lithuania coach Ramunas Butautas.
Germany were led by Nowitzki's 28 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. Okulaja had 12 points and seven rebounds while Robert Garrett chipped in 10 points.
"We had our opportunities late in the game. We hit a couple of threes and then that unfortunate play at the end of the game – we were that close to winning the game," German coach Dirk Bauermann said.
"I really have to applaud my team for coming back and playing as hard and well as we did in the second half. We showed tremendous heart and pride. But for us, there's no such thing as a good loss. They might have been the favourites but we could have beat that team and I think we should have."
Nowitzki and Okulaja drained three-pointers as Germany jumped ahead 9-4 early. The game was tied 15-15 when Bauermann was hit with a technical foul, which Lithuania converted into a five-point possession with two Jasikevicius free-throws and a three-pointer by Kaukenas. That sparked a 17-2 finish to the first period, which included threes by Linas Kleiza and Siskausas and had Lithuania up 30-17.
Germany's offensive struggles continued into the second period with Bauermann's team not scoring a basket until Steffen Hamann's lay-up with 4:21 left before the break.
Spanning the first and second quarters, Germany made just one basket in a 9:49 stretch as Lithuania opened a 19-point lead, 42-23. The nightmare second quarter finished with Germany hitting just two of 16 (12%) from the field as Lithuania led 49-32 going into the break.
Lithuania pushed the advantage to 21 points with 5:59 left in the third, but Germany used an 11-2 run to narrow the deficit to 12, 62-50.
Simas Jasaitis and Darjus Lavrinovic did knock down three-pointers only to see Pascal Roller's driving left-handed lay-up fall at the buzzer for a 68-57 Lithuania lead going into the fourth.
Germany opened the final 10 minutes on an 11-2 run but were never able to forge ahead.
Lithuania and Germany advance to the qualifying round in Madrid along with the winner of the Czech Republic-Turkey game later tonight.