In the flow to the third victory

Oh, how beautiful it was, resounded through the hall, people hugged each other, it was like carnival in Cologne: In an incredibly exciting and nerve-wracking game, the German national basketball team scored 109:107 points against Lithuania after twice overtime third win in the third game, which means that the round of 16 is booked as quickly as possible. Because in the evening the French trembled to a 78:74 victory against the Hungarians and provided support, even the objections of the Lithuanians were unsuccessful. After a technical foul against Germany, the referees simply forgot the free throw that was due. But the protest came too late, the justification was not received by the world association Fiba within the specified period of 60 minutes.

It doesn’t often happen that a German national team is greeted with catcalls when they arrive in their own hall. Especially in a sold-out venue, like on Sunday in front of 18,017 spectators in the Cologne Arena. That didn’t mean that the local audience was outnumbered, but the 7000 basketball-crazy Lithuanian fans always turn the area into a huge party zone when their selection performs. But this time they had a worthy opponent in the stands – on the pitch anyway.

There was a lot at stake, the selection of the German Basketball Association (DBB) wanted to go to Berlin in the knockout round, Lithuania had its back to the wall after two defeats. And the game exceeded all expectations: from the first minute, both opponents started with a lot of energy, from a poisonous and robust defense both looked for the fast offensive game, which resulted in a worth seeing, at times wild exchange of blows. In which the team of national coach Herbert after a balanced first quarter (19:19) slowly developed an overweight until the break. In particular, NBA-experienced Franz Wagner (Orlando Magic) had a brilliant day, whether from a distance, in a one-on-one duel or when blocking in defence: The 21-year-old top scorer (32 points) gave the game his own stamp and led the Germans to a 46:41 lead at half time.

Dennis Schröder misses the chance of an early victory with the last throw

On the Lithuanian side, too, it was Jonas Valanciunas (New Orleans Pelicans), an NBA player, who resisted the opponent most effectively. The 2.13 chunk is difficult to keep under the basket anyway, and the 30-year-old veteran scored safely from distance (34). The game remained intense and close, before the final quarter the lead of the Germans had melted to one point (66:65). In the final section, the intensity and tension in the long-simmering arena continued to increase, the lead changed with every goal, but Dennis Schröder missed the chance of an early victory with the last shot.

It was 89:89 after regulation time, the DBB selection had to go into extra time. Again it went back and forth, again the protagonists on the floor plunged the spectators into a rollercoaster of emotions: 96:96 – second overtime.

And there the Germans, cheered on by the already frenetic spectators, had a little more luck. This victory after a hard fight should boost the already great self-confidence of the German players, now next Tuesday (8.30 p.m.) against the European champions from Slovenia, who surprisingly lost to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Against Bosnia-Herzegovina the day before, the German team started much less round, because that element didn’t work that playmaker Maodo Lo had identified as a “trademark” in the German game: the defensive. Again and again the Bosnian winger Dzanan Musa was able to pull to the basket or try to throw from distance, which he then gratefully took advantage of with 30 points. In addition, Bosnia’s center Jusuf Nurkic showed why he is even feared in the NBA .

In the first half, the German players bounced off Bosnia’s giant NBA center Jusuf Nurkic like flies

The German defenders bounced off the 2.13 meter giant of the Portland Trailblazers like flies. “They took us by surprise with their physique and aggressiveness,” Lo said of the first half, which had an impact. At times, the team seemed insecure and also allowed themselves to drop out in the build-up game. The result was 14 ball losses, an ugly value in top basketball.

But the team led by leader Schröder, who is still struggling with his long-range shot but showed leadership qualities against Bosnia and now against Lithuania, knew how to improve. Also thanks to coach Herbert, as Lo reported, who analyzed calmly and factually during the break and pointed out mistakes. “We tried to correct it, it worked out quite well.” In fact, from then on the two key players in the opponent’s ranks were dealt with much more effectively. “We defended as a team in the second half, which automatically made every player more active,” Lo explained the change.

And suddenly the attacking game worked better, which is known to be mutually dependent: “The offense results from the defense,” explained Lo. The tall guys in the German selection got more and more balls under the baskets, so the DBB team found its way back to its fast switching game. Above all, Jonas Wohlfahrt-Bottermann, who had spent almost the entire game on the bench against France, shone with strong scenes at the back and front. That’s a second hallmark of this team, that the bank players know how to fit in profitably.

This was also confirmed by co-captain Johannes Voigtmann, who was “just tired” after the work was done, and that the two victories had touched the substance. “The good thing is that there are always other players.” In fact, against Bosnia Voigtmann, Johannes Thiemann and Andreas Obst scored double digits, against Lithuania there were Lo (21) and Daniel Theis (11) in addition to Wagner and Schröder. You have to get into a flow, Voigtmann had demanded before the tournament, and now at the latest you can call it a success. Whether Germany should now be counted among the medal contenders? Others would have to answer that, but “we came here with high expectations.”

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