A second half that should be taken as a warning
The German national basketball team is in the quarterfinals of the European Championship. In the round of 16 against outsiders Montenegro, the team shows two faces – a brilliant first half and a very weak second half. In addition, the loss of a key player is threatened.
Dennis Schroeder clasped his hands over his head. His puffed cheeks after the final siren revealed: That was close. The dream of a medal at the European Championships for Germany’s basketball players on Saturday evening was almost shattered. But he isn’t. So, after the obligatory high five, Schröder walked to the sidelines with his opponent to get his family’s congratulations. He smiled.
A few minutes later in the TV interview, the captain of the German basketball team seemed more serious. “We started well, but didn’t do a good job in the second half,” summed up Schröder on “Magentasport”. After the break, the team no longer found the solutions and played too slowly. “But in the end we left the pitch as winners.”
Previously, Germany had almost lost a 27-point lead in the 85:79 (48:24) in the round of 16 against Montenegro. Above all, the performance in the second half against the outsider should serve as a warning shot for the team of national coach Gordon Herbert. “Something like this shouldn’t happen to us. We stopped playing,” Maodo Lo criticized after the game in the mixed zone. In the quarterfinals, one of the title candidates is probably waiting for Germany’s basketball players.
Defensive specialist Weiler-Babb is injured
Herbert had to change his starting lineup again against Montenegro: Andreas Obst started for Nick Weiler-Babb. The American, who was naturalized before the tournament and plays for FC Bayern, was out for the second time in a row with a shoulder injury. In the Herbert system, the 26-year-old is primarily intended for special tasks on the defensive. A role that becomes more important with every game in the European Championship. There is hope that Weiler-Babb, after a day of treatment in Munich, was at least able to lift weights during the final training session on Friday evening. His use in the quarterfinals is at least not excluded.
In the round of 16, the German team played a strong first half, especially in defence. Allowing opponents just 24 points in one half – even if Montenegro isn’t among the European elite – shows the intensity required for a knockout round match. On the offensive, Schröder held back at the beginning of the game, even though his first three-goal attempt was successful. Rather, the build-up player put his teammates in the limelight with some spectacular passes; Schröder had already distributed seven assists at the break. When it went into the dressing room, Germany was comfortably leading 48:24 in front of Dirk Nowitzki.
But instead of gaining more self-confidence for the quarter-finals, refining processes and also distributing the minutes of play to the bench players, the spectators in the Berlin Arena experienced how quickly the momentum in a basketball game can tip over. Three quick threes by the Montenegrins were the start of a second half that should be a warning to the German team. Of course, Montenegro suddenly scored well above average, but the Herbert team – in contrast to the first half – allowed the opponent to throw freely again and again.
In addition, there was a problem on the offensive against Montenegrins who were temporarily defending in a zone. The rhythm was broken. Germany lost the third quarter 19:26. In addition, concerns about Franz Wagner spread across the German bank. The Orlando Magic NBA player, who is one of the top performers in the DBB selection at this tournament, was fouled in a three-point attempt in the third quarter and sprained his right foot. Wagner tried to run out of pain on the field, sunk all three free throws and was then substituted by Herbert as a precaution.
“It was a pretty bad sprain, I think,” said the national coach after the game at “Magentasport” about his winger. Wagner will undergo an MRI, so he doesn’t want to speculate further about the injury, Herbert said at the subsequent press conference. A failure of the 21-year-old in the quarterfinals would weigh heavily. So far, Wagner has been both a reliable point collector (15.8 points) and a strong defender.
The last quarter against Montenegro showed how important stable defense is for the German team. Again and again Germany let the unleashed Kendrick Perry (25 points) free to get a threesome. Montenegro’s point guard scored and breathed new life into his side thought dead. When Montenegro suddenly got five points (69:64), Herbert gained the certainty that he can rely on his bench players at this European Championship. It was thanks to Johannes Thiemann (9 points) and Lo (14) that Germany did not fall behind in this phase.
Schroeder takes responsibility
However, the main burden rested on the shoulders of Captain Schröder, who, after the break, no longer defended as aggressively, but scored consistently and ended up with 22 points. With the score of 80:77 and 24 seconds remaining, Germany’s entry into the eighth was not in serious danger because the referees called a controversial unsportsmanlike foul against Montenegro and coach Bosko Radovic complained about a technical foul. Against teams that are individually stronger and act more cleverly in critical phases of the game, a German drop in performance, as in the second half (18:29 in the fourth quarter alone), may end with the tournament being eliminated.
“It was a game with two different games,” summarized Herbert. “But we did it.” The national coach sounded relieved. In the quarterfinals, Germany will probably meet a heavyweight in European basketball. Should Greece win their round of 16 against the Czech Republic as expected, the title candidate will be opponents of the DBB selection on Tuesday evening. The team is led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Millwaukee Bucks NBA superstar is probably the most athletic player at the current European Championship and scores an average of 29.5 points. Best value at this European Championship.
The duel with the Greeks could be a key game for Germany on the way to the desired medal. In a possible semi-final, strong but not unbeatable teams would be waiting in Spain, Lithuania, Finland or Croatia. The Slovenians around Luka Doncic and top favorite Serbia with Nikola Jokic are possible as German opponents in the final at the earliest.