It wasn’t as impressive as their win over Spain but Serbia did enough to go 2-0 with victory over Germany
Dirk Nowitzki was hoping Serbia would be tired after their epic battle with Spain yesterday and he was at least partially right as it was Germany who looked the faster outfit from the get-go as Day of EuroBasket 2015 got under way in Berlin. The Serbians however were smart enough with their energy and weren’t going to let the challenge of playing tough games on back to back days bother them. What did bother Serbia was just how physical the first half was. There was plenty of needle in this one, most notably with this hit by Johannes Voigtmann on Milos Teodosic.
The crowd was, as you might expect, pretty hot for this one. Garmany were taking on the team that impressed the most on Saturday and the two biggest fanbases here were hop from the start. It was the Dirk and Dennis show early before Nikola Kalinic made a big dunk. The pace was fast from the off. Schroeder wanted a track meet and Serbia were happy to provide. The pace may have been what the Atlanta Hawks guard was looking for but it more than suited Nemanja Bjelica and company. Germany had to slow things down and settle. Schroeder changed the point of attack to draw Serbia out more. This gave Pleiss room to finish inside and the home team was back on track. Midway through the quarter they had etched out a 4 point lead and looked content with how they were operating at both ends. Serbia weren’t getting an inch on Germany’s glass and there was ample room for the Germans to find a shot. It wasn’t like we hadn’t seen this before from Serbia, they were far from dominating in the first quarter against Spain yesterday and we all know what happened there. Here they were starting to find their groove a little earlier. Bogdan Bogdanovic made it a one-possession game and they were soon back in front following a couple of trips to the line. Niels Giffey woke up the home fans from deep but Bogdanovic answered right back to give Serbia a 19-18 lead at the end of Q1.
Germany once again looked the stronger to start the second frame with Nowitzki, Heiko Schaffartzik, and Voigtmann all succeding from deep to push Germany into a 7 point lead. This was inspried stuff by the group hosts and they had all but nullified Bjelica’s involvement through the guts of the first half. Serbia however are far from a one trick pony. Germany may have been on top but they weren’t stretching it out. Some smart use of Miroslav Raduljica inside got them back on track. Even in my delicate state after a night out in Kreuzberg, it was obvious that Serbia were sucking the home team in a little. They were trying to gas their opponents to leave room to stretch things out in the second half. Chris Fleming, to his credit, was rotating his bodies as much as possible to keep his side as fresh as possible but Dirk and Dennis were still logging heavy minutes early. Serbia had weathered the second quarter storm and were back on top through 20 minutes, leading 39-38 at the break.
Despite the slender margin, it still looked like Serbia’s game to lose. They had taken everything Germany had while struggling to make shots and still held a lead. The third frame was where we expected them to step up a gear but, once more, it was Germany who started better. An Anton Gavel three and a bucket from Tibor Pleiss put Germany back in front. Germany’s interior D was basically running a game plan of ‘must stop Raduljica’and it was surprisingly effective as a plan. Offensively however they weren’t making it count. For all of Germany’s success in frustrating their opponents inside, they weren’t doing enough to capitalise. With the bigs struggling, Bogdanovic and Nemanja Nedovic stepped up to the plate.
Where Germany were really hurting was getting to the line. Through three quarters Serbia had 21 free throws to Germany’s 7. With shots not falling, it was a handy crutch for Serbia to lean on, making 14 to Germany’s 6. Couple that with Serbia’s 35-23 advantage on the boards and it was a ground out way to take a 50-48 lead into the final frame. Ognjnen Kuzmic had an early impact for Serbia as they briefly made it a two possession game before Schaffartzik scored from deep to get Germany back into it. Fatigue was clearly hitting the hosts at this stage and even a well rested Nowitzki looked to be feeling it. Serbia still had some spark but it was without structure. Schroeder fed Dirk to cut the deficit to the minimum and Sasha Djodrjevic had to call timeout.
Gavel tied matters up from the line and inside the final 5 minutes we still hadn’t seen the expected spurt from Serbia. Bjelica put Serbia back on top from deep, his first score of the half, but Germany weren’t going away. Pleiss put Germany in front, but Serbia weren’t going to just drop out of this one with fatigue. Zoran Erceg halted the slide and Serbia entered the final minute with the narrowest of leads. A Nedovic lay-up put the pressure on Germany but Schaffartzik tore the roof off the arena with a three to tie it at 66-66.
3.7 seconds left, Serbia ball, in Bjelica’s hands and boom with the lay-up. After a quiet, quiet, game, he came up big when it mattered most. Serbia go 2-0 and enter the rest day with an air of relief.