Happiness? Can? Earned? keep your nerve? A little bit of everything, but the last impression was: It was a dance on the abyss that could just as well have gone wrong. But Davis Bertans missed his last throw, of all people, the NBA professional from the Oklahoma City Thunder, who shouldn’t be allowed to throw at such moments. The Latvian had already scored 20 points, sunk significantly more difficult threes, and now his ball hit the ring. It remained at 81:79 for the German team, which, after 21 years of drought, made it back into a World Cup semi-final.
The top favorite USA (2.40 p.m. German time, free with Magentasport) is waiting there on Friday, and the subdued mood of the lucky winner revealed that the selection of the German Basketball Association (DBB) then has to increase significantly in order to survive. Although the inconsolable Latvian Bertans thought that they had just been eliminated by “one of the best teams in the world”, the Latvians scratched the excellent impression that the Germans had made with their five victories so far.
The fact that it ended up being wafer-thin had a lot to do with Franz Wagner. A little over five minutes had been played in the first quarter when the 22-year-old stepped onto the floor. In training the day before, the return of the Orlando Magic pro had been announced, the left ankle showed no reaction for the first time after a stress training session. Wagner was ready, announced national coach Gordon Herbert before the game, then initially left Wagner on the bench, but quickly sent him into the competition to give him security: “Everyone who does sports knows that it takes a few minutes until when you’re back in it, mentally as well,” explained Franz Wagner afterwards – it didn’t take him much longer to remind everyone with his 16 points, the best in the German team, how important he is for this team.
“That was probably my worst game,” said captain Dennis Schröder about his performance
Especially since this had to do without Dennis Schröder on Wednesday. The captain and previously outstanding player of the DBB team was physically present in the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, but Schröder did not manage to get more than nine tickets and a few turnovers in the first half. The captain ultimately scored nine points, which took him a staggering 26 tries. Again and again he took throws from all positions, they always went wrong.
He garnished his mistake with ball losses and bad passes: “That was probably the worst game I’ve ever played,” said the captain later self-critically. Under his leadership, the German team again failed to find their way into the game. Although the start wasn’t as blatantly unsuccessful as in the recent appearance against Slovenia and a 11:25 after the first quarter, Germany had to turn a deficit this time as well. After all, a 3:13 lead was a wafer-thin 36:34 at the break. But there was no increase after the change, which had always made the team a sure winner.
This was also due to the flawless performance of the Latvians. Players like Arturs Zagars don’t have a big name; the playmaker was still quite inconspicuous in the Bundesliga for Braunschweig two years ago. But now he let the German defenders stand again and again or scored from distance and was the top scorer of the game with 24 points. It was not for nothing that the Latvians had recently beaten the Olympic bronze medalists France and world champion Spain – this collective fighting for each other is difficult to get to grips with.
The fact that the Germans still managed to do so was once again due to the qualities of the entire squad. You have to get used to talking about the second cast, because it was the bench players who turned the tide once again. Johannes Thiemann and Moritz Wagner excelled this time. Thiemann put a lot of power on the defensive, caught seven rebounds and collected ten points – without a single failed attempt. And Moritz Wagner is the one who inspires his colleagues with his enthusiasm – and usually scores double digits. This time he collected 12 points. And because Andi Obst (13) was as accurate as usual from a distance, it was enough for a narrow victory in the nerve-wracking final phase.
As in the previous games, the basis was the defensive, in which all players made their contributions. Like Daniel Theis, who collected nine points and eight rebounds – as well as the most beautiful basket when he caught an alley-oop pass from Schröder in the air and hammered it into the basket. “We left everything on the field, fought and played very physically on defense. It was difficult, but you have to win games like this, that’s part of a tournament like this,” said the NBA professional of the Indiana Pacers.
Coach Gordon Herbert was particularly pleased about the return of Franz Wagner, who was voted the most valuable player of the game. The coach’s strategy is to always have one of his two key players on the field. So far it was Schröder, now Franz Wagner stepped in. Is that enough against the USA? Herbert looked a little irritated when asked in the TV interview, which was supposed to say that he didn’t expect Schröder to appear again like this. Then he said: “You have a stinker in every tournament”, a game that goes wrong, “we had it today.”