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.