It was another phenomenal strategic performance from Sergio Scariolo as Spain silenced a passionate German crowd to punch their ticket to Sunday’s final with France.
EuroBasket is a simple competition. There are lots of exciting games and, in the end, Spain wins.
The home fans were out in force with a full house for Germany’s first semi-final since 2005. A smattering of Spanish fans were to the left of the media seats but, while hardly the best for bringing away support anyway, they were surrounded by an expectant horde.
Spain were doing all they could to limit Dennis Schroeder’s inside movement on both ends early and it worked pretty well as Sergio Scariolo’s side forced the German captain outside, slowing both his half-court impact and his ability to get fast breaks started. The sacrifice however was that it left Daniel Theis all the room he wanted to create his own opportunities. Plus, if Dennis can just put a three over Lorenzo Brown like he’s not even there then the deny Schroeder the pain approach can only do so much.
Spain’s game was quite simple by contrast, send Willy Hernangomez barging up the middle and force Germany to choose between having him doubled by Theis and Johannes Voigtmann, thus creating space for their outside shooters, or single him and face a bad match-up. A fun first quarter ended with Spain on top 27-24 and none of us any smarter as to who was actually going to win it.
Nervy shooting from the hosts to start the second quarter forced Gordi Herbert to call an early timeout. The crowd was already being taken out of the game and we weren’t at the mid point of the second quarter yet. It was classic push out a lead and then keep jabbing from Spain. Even when they botched a play it worked out as a Rudy Fernandez airball three was caught and put back by Jaime Pradilla.
Deutschland needed Dennis and Captain Fantastic came up good with a big three which was quickly followed by an unsportsmanlike by Brown on Nick Weiler-Babb. There’s the captain again, looking at Juancho Hernangomez and just dancing through him for the score and drawn foul.
Scariolo called in the troops and settled things a bit but we had the fight we’d all come for. Schroeder vs Scariolo, the free spirited confidence machine vs the strategic supremo. Germany had weathered the first storm due to their captain and they headed into halftime with a narrow but deserved 51-46 lead.
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Alberto Diaz got bullied to the ground by Schroeder as he drove through to start the half. Diaz got the foul called against him and the MVP chants rained down as he gave Deutschland its biggest lead of the night from the line.
The assignment of Diaz to Schroeder however took shape quickly as he was yapping at and pestering the German captain, keeping him away from the ball, enabling a mini 7-0 run from Spain and forcing a timeout from Herbert. Diaz got a floater off, in the net and the foul drawn. The run was 10-0 and Spain were back in front by the minimum.
The reintroduction of Wagner made it a more back and forth affair for a while but his bigger role was to bring the crowd back into this and force Spain to change up their defensive approach. This meant one thing, Dennis could be a menace again.
Dennis finally took a seat late in the third with his side up 10 but he went straight to the scorer’s table because there was no way he was taking more than the bare minimum breather tonight. With 10 minutes to play, Germany led 71-65.
Diaz from deep and then right on Schroeder’s ass to start the final quarter. A swat by Usman Garuba on Dennis but Franz is there and the scores keep coming. Then Dennis went past 30 on the night with a simple drive inside, his highest ever in a EuroBasket game. Lorenzo Brown got to 20 on the night on the very next possession. Whatever we were witnessing, it was compelling stuff and it was all square with 6.27 to play.
Out of the timeout it was Spain who started the stronger with Garuba and Juancho scoring 6 unanswered points. Andy Obst made what looked a vital three only for Garuba to do it from outside too. The fear within the stands was undeniable because, once more, it looked like Sergio Scariolo was going to pull out a brilliant strategic win. As the hosts fouled to save the clock in the final minute, Spain kept their nerve. The victors finished a perfect 14/14 from the line.