By Jeff Taylor
Germany lived to fight another day by beating Italy to reach the quarter-finals of the EuroBasket, but now world champions Spain stand in their way.
The hosts, who lost to Croatia to finish second in Group B, have rebounded nicely with victories over Greece, Russia and Israel to win their qualifying round group.
Pau Gasol played just 18 minutes against the Israelis but scored 26 points, and Jose Calderon provided further evidence that he is on the verge of superstardom with 15 points off the bench on seven of 10 shooting from the floor.
Calderon is shooting 40% (eight of 20) from three-point range in this tournament.
Germany beat a Pau Gasol-less Spain two years ago in Belgrade at EuroBasket 2005 with a late Dirk Nowitzki turn-around jump shot.
|Nowitzki's late jumper helped Germany beat a Pau Gasol-less|
Spain in Belgrade two years ago
Spain coach Pepu Hernandez was not in charge of the team then, but even if he had been, he hinted that that game doesn’t have much significance.
"My team is motivated enough without having to think about avenging what happened in Belgrade," Hernandez said.
For Dirk Bauermann’s team to be successful, Nowitzki’s supporting cast will have to rise too the occasion as they did against Italy, when Johannes Herber and Jan-Hendrik Jagla excelled coming off the bench.
"I like Germany because how they have reacted against adversity,” Hernandez said. “Against Italy, they have played like a team not relying solely on one player. That makes Germany a very dangerous team."
Germany will have to play just one day after their last qualifying round game, while Spain go into the day on two days rest.
Last Result: Spain hammered Israel 99-73 to top their qualifying group while Germany beat Italy 67-58 to clinch the remaining spot in the last eight.
Key Match-up: Steffen Hamann v Jose Calderon. With the Spanish backcourt arguably the best in this EuroBasket, Hamann must help Germany control the tempo, and attack the basket as he did successfully against Italy when scoring 10 points on five of eight shooting.
Key Statistics: Germany out-rebounded Italy 52-31 in their final qualifying round game. It is a must for them to boss the boards against Spain.
X-Factor: Johannes Herber was a true hero against Italy, burying a trio of three-pointers at crucial times and finishing with 15 points. If he can duplicate that performance against Spain, the Germans will have a much better chance of success.
Speaking out: “Everything is possible. A game has to be played and then we will see how it ends.” – Dirk Nowitzki