Italy survived an onslaught from Dennis Schroeder to beat Germany and progress to the knockout phase of EuroBasket 2015. Emmet Ryan takes you through a dramatic evening in the Mercedes-Benz Arena
Dennis Schroeder delivered an extraordinary individual performance for Germany that went far beyond the stat line of 29 points 7 assists and 4 rebounds. He was the leader and soul of a Germany team that left it all on the floor but, in the end, it just wasn’t enough to overcome Italy.
The German fans were loud before tip, roaring along to The Final Countdown, but you could feel the nerves in the air. The knew they were up against it and Italy, having come to life last night, looked a daunting opponent. The eyeball test said these guys could shoot but through three games they had only delivered once, which Italy turned up in Berlin would make a huge difference to the end result. Dennis Schroeder, who has been individually outstanding in this tournament gave Germany the early score they needed before Andrea Bargnani responded on a second chance opportunity. The Italian fans, morose over the weekend, we in jubilant form. They were in control of their fate. A win here and they had a shot at top spot. It was so far removed from the weekend but in the sprint of group play emotions can swing rapidly and our beliefs can get coloured. An early run by Germany to go 11-5 up forced a timeout from Piangiani. Italy need to make a lot of shots to win games, the type that don’t always fall. Their low pass offence is great for avoiding turnovers but it leads to them living dangerously when the scores don’t follow.
Chris Fleming needed to be able to rest his best players and Germany’s early lead gave him the chance to sit Dirk Nowitzki. Smart management of minutes almost got the hosts the upset over Serbia and now, with a decent lead early, Fleming was aiming to go one better in a crucial clash. Schroeder was doing the heavy lifting in the first frame, with 9 points in the game’s opening 7 minutes. Bargnani was making shots for Italy to stop Germany from going too far in front but this wasn’t the start Piangiani wanted. After 10 minutes his side trailed 22-17 having gone 7/15 from the field.
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A Danilo Gallinari shot from just off the top of the arc to start the second summed up Italy’s issues up to now. He was open, he fired early, hit the iron and bounced the wrong way. It was the type of shot that was dropping at will for Italy the previous night. Alessandro Gentile stepped up with a pair of scores to cut the gap to 2 but Germany were still playing with confidence. Fleming was working his rotations to change the looks on offence. Back came in Dirk. Swish and he was off the mark for the day. Italy’s shooting was still shaky but Pietro Aradori reeled Germany back in again as he struck twice from deep. Right now for Italy it was a case of hanging with the hosts during the storm and waiting to find an opening.
Gallo heated up towards the tailed end of the half, making a pair of threes but Germany were ruthless from the line opening the game a perfect 9 of 9. That was enough to keep their noses in front until just before the break when Daniel Hackett tied it up on the buzzer to leave the score 42-42.
The opening 5 minutes of the second half were always going to be crucial for the hosts. After a good outing from the field in the first half, they couldn’t afford to let off in the early stages of the third quarter. Italy had started to find their shots. This was when they were most dangerous. This is where they hurt Spain yesterday. Germany were hanging with Italy and reached the bonus inside of 4 minutes. Schroeder was conducting affairs from the field and the hosts remained perfect from the line to push in front. Nww Italy were getting frustrated, Germany were getting the extra opportunities. Dirk outmuscled Bargs for a rebound off a missed Robin Benzing three, Benzing got a second chance from deep and made it. The hosts were up 8 and Piangiani had to call in his troops. Fleming was getting the game he wanted. The passing was aggressive and quick. Italy were repeatedly unable to rotate to the shooter. Nowtizki made it a double digit lead and the Italian fans fell quiet.
Italy opened the half 1 of 9 from the field before Bargnani finally got a fortunate bounce. Some help from the line saw Italy reel in the hosts a touch but with just 3 of 15 field goals made in the quarter, they went into the final frame trailing 60-54.
Fleming sat Dirk and Dennis early in the fourth, with the back-ups forcing a pair of early turnovers. Bargnani and Marco Belinelli got Italy right back in it however and Fleming had to change things up. Back came in the superstars, with just under 3 minutes rest, as Italy drew level. An and-one by ‘The Menace’ got the crowd rocking again. Dirk follwed up before Italy regained some composure. A pair of Belinelli threes put them in front for the first time since the third minute of the game. Dirk and Bargs went to war again to keep a possession alive for Germany and Schroeder repayed the favour with a cut in from the left for the lay-up. Benzing ad King fouled out for the hosts but Italy were living dangerously in foul territory. Gentile and Bargnani were still bringing ample aggression while both on 4 fouls.
Schroeder contined to wow the crowd with his speed and finishing and there was hardly a German sitting as we entered the closing stages. Schroeder struck again to make the lead 75-72 with 27.3 seconds to go. In unquestionably the finest 40 minutes of his life in a Germany shirt, Schroeder had put them in pole position to put a foot in the next round. Now it was about those crunch seconds, where they had come up short against Serbia on Sunday. This was their shot. Schroeder had given it to them.
Italy had one last shot to tie or win down 2 with the clock ticking. Gallinari made it count from mid-range. Schroeder missed a chance to win it on the buzzer and on we went to overtime. With Gentile having fouled out, Italy turned to Bargs again as he opened the scoring before Dirk fired right back. Nowitzki’s fight in this game was really something to behold. He was taking the challenge of Bargs personally and swatted the Brooklyn Nets man’s shot away as it circled the rim. Bargnani’s participation ended soon after as he fouled out. Nowitzki tied it up at the line once more. Germany were looking to feed the Dallas Maverick at every opportunity but his jumpers weren’t falling. Gallo got Italy back ahead at the line but Schroeder slalomed through the paint to feed Zipser to tie it as we entered the fnal minute.
Gallo and Bello changed the game decisively. A jumper by Gallinari was followed by a three by Belinelli either side of a Schroeder turnover. Italy had survived in the most unlikely of circumstances. Now they’ve got a shot to win the group while Germany face Spain in a winner take all game on the final day of action. After a draining display like this, it’s going to take something extraordinary to come back on Thursday.
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