"We've made German basketball a bit sexier," said Dennis Schröder on Sunday evening: "The trend is going in the right direction." He and the German national team had just defeated the Polish team in Berlin 82:69 and won the bronze medal at the European Championships won. But what he and his teammates like better than third place is that they only lost two of nine top-level games at this tournament in Cologne and Berlin, in the preliminary round against Slovenia and the semifinals. "We were very disappointed with our defeat in the semi-finals against Spain," said national coach Gordon Herbert and joked: "We thought that we would get a bit more for our victory over Greece in the quarter-finals."
Schröder scored 26 points in the tough game against the team that surprisingly knocked out defending champions Slovenia and the outstanding Luka Doncic in the quarter-finals. "It was a bit shaky offensively," said center Johannes Voigtmann during the half-time break: "Defensively, we benefit from the fact that the Poles themselves misplace simple things." Fortunately for the German team, none of the ten long-range shots by the Poles landed in the first half. Luckily, the Polish players didn't dominate the game like the Polish fans did with drums and songs in the stands. However, there was no celebration.
A lead of 15 hard-fought points became a tie of 59:59 points eight minutes before the end. In the hall, which was filled with just 13,000 spectators - a good thousand seats remained free - the German team simply didn't care that they had the better players, were the better team and played at home. Less than a minute before the final siren, not only did the Polish guard Mateusz Ponitka foul Johannes Thiemann on the layup, the Polish coach Igor Milicic, who had already been warned, also verbally attacked the referee. A technical foul was added to the foul, earning four points from one move - the nail-biter was finally decided.
To end this European Championship, which was so successful for them, with a victory in the knockout games in Berlin, was only the privilege of one other team besides the Germans, the European champions from Spain. Coach Sergio Scariolo's team defeated France, who came second at the Olympics, in the final in Berlin on Sunday evening 88:76 (47:37) and won the European Championship title for the fourth time.
It's been seventeen years since a German national basketball team won a medal at the European Championships: That was in 2005 with Dirk Nowitzki in the final in Belgrade against Greece. Fittingly, Schröder's shirt number is 17, said Herbert. It makes him proud and an honor to have been able to look after this incredible team, he continued. The players confirmed that they want to continue fighting for success in the coming summers. The World Cup in Asia is on the agenda for next year, and the 2024 Olympic Games are in Paris.
Center Johannes Voigtmann was one of the first in the team to be alarmed by the rather mediocre performance at the end of the European Championship campaign. He yelled at his teammates to pull himself together, he defended with dedication, and perhaps that was even more of a reason for his MVP award than the 14 points he scored, the 9 rebounds he grabbed and the six assists , which he gave.
"We finally got a reward for all the summers, all the hard work that we put into the national team," said the exhausted but happy point guard Maodo Lo. Ironically, in the last game of the tournament in his hometown of Berlin, he lacked the touch; in seven throws he met only once; with free throws he got five points. "You get in touch every summer, you're tired, you play together, you try to achieve something. And now, finally, in my sixth or seventh year, something has been achieved. We rewarded ourselves for a good basketball that we have been playing here in Germany for a long time."
Daniel Theis from the Indiana Pacers got 9 points, the 21-year-old Franz Wagner from the Orlando Magic got 8. Andreas Obst hit two of seven three-pointers and contributed 9 points, Johannes Thiemann 6. Nick Weiler-Babb (3) showed why the German Basketball Association (DBB) made sure that he was naturalized in the summer: next to Schröder, he is the best defender in the German team.
Whoever shares the ball goes further
While the players hugged each other, Schröder crossed the floor and hugged Robin Benzing. If the longtime team captain, "the true captain", does not also receive a bronze medal for his many years of service for the national team, Schröder promised that he would bequeath his own to Benzing. National coach Herbert had not nominated Benzing for the team, the hall spokesman had not welcomed the professional playing for Fortitudo Bologna, who was sitting in the front row next to the Schröders family in a jacket with the federal eagle.
The Germans prevailed with team spirit and cohesion. Whoever shares the ball goes further. Dennis Schröder, leader of the German team and next year a professional with the Los Angeles Lakers, has also internalized this. With 22.1 points per game, he is number five in the scorer list for this European Championship. With a total of 57 assists, he is only surpassed by the playmakers of the finalists, Lorenzo Brown and Thomas Heurtel.