Germany were made to work hard on Saturday by EuroBasket debutants Iceland who rallied from an 18-point third-quarter deficit but held on to secure a 71-65 win in the game that raised the curtain on Group B action in Berlin.
Turning Point: Germany jumped in the lead right from the start and finished the second quarter on a 19-7 burst to claim a 15-point advantage, 41-26, going into the half-time interval. The fighting Icelanders went on a 7-0 run midway through the third to reduce the deficit to 48-41 with 4:13 left in the period, but Niels Giffey hit a triple 32 seconds from the third buzzer to cap off an 11-0 German run which made it 59-41.
Stats Don't Lie: Germany got carried away by Iceland's style of play in the first quarter and attempted nine shots from behind the arc and only seven two-pointers. They decided to put the ball inside in the second and enjoyed their best stretches when they stuck to that option as they shot 23-of-42 from two, scoring 33 of their 71 points in the paint.
Game Hero: Nowitzki got off to a sluggish start and only had two points in the opening frame but got into rhythm in the second, scoring 10 points on 3-of-5 from the floor in that period to enable Germany to create separation. The veteran superstar finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Paul Zipser justified his selection in Germany's starting five with a huge defensive contribution and chipped in with six points and seven boards.
Bottom Line: Germany saw Robin Benzing sprain his ankle in the fourth frame and the status of the forward for the Sunday game against Serbia is doubtful. Otherwise the group hosts showed they struggle for consistency, albeit they used all 12 players on their roster and that definitely played a role. Iceland proved that they will be a hard nut to crack as they largely managed to make up for their size disadvantage with an enormous abundance of never-say-die attitude.
They Said: "We made a couple of double-teams on Dirk when he went over his right shoulder but even if we have two guys on him, there is nobody in the world that stopped that shot before. The fact he scored only 15 points tonight is pretty good for us. We didn't do anything wrong on defence, they just had a 7-footer being checked by a 6-foot guard" - Iceland head coach Graig Pedersen.