When Arnas Butkevicius threw at the German basket with one second remaining, time seemed to pass in slow motion in the Cologne arena. The Lithuanian's threesome flew through the air forever - and smacked the ring. Germany's basketball players sank exhausted to the ground while fans in the stands celebrated. This was preceded by a memorable basketball game with many heroes on the German side.
Led by the outstanding Franz Wagner, who scored 32 points, Gordon Herbert's team defeated Lithuania 109:107 (46:41, 89:89, 96:96) in a dramatic third group game after double overtime and is in the round of 16 of the European Championship. Wagner was supported at his festival by Dennis Schröder (25 points) and Maodo Lo (21). "It was a very good game. Both played very good and fast basketball. Lithuania is one of the best teams in the world,” national coach Herbert praised his players at Magentasport. But whether the result was passed was still unclear at the final siren due to a curious scene.
Compared to the first two games, Germany started better, especially on the offensive, and made many good shots. In addition, the Herbert team managed to keep Lithuania's stars Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis out of the dangerous zone under the basket at the beginning. Only towards the end of the first quarter did the DBB team let the Lithuanians get into the game better. After ten minutes it was 19:19.
The start of the second quarter was also perfect from a German perspective: after a well-played three-pointer by Andreas Obst to make it 30:21, the German substitutes threw their arms up in celebration. A gesture that is indicative of the German appearances at this European Championship. The unity has so far been particularly noticeable in the strong defense over long stretches, which brought the victories against France and Bosnia.
Disturbing noises, on the other hand, rang out away from the field at the weekend. "For me it was a matter of course that I missed the birth of my daughter for Germany. It was a matter of course for me to also qualify for the World Cup, although my wife was diagnosed with cancer and had an operation," complained Robin Benzing, who was sorted out before the European Championships, in the "Got Nexxt" podcast. His non-nomination felt like a "broken heart". Sentences that can also be interpreted as an accusation of ingratitude towards the German Basketball Association. The all-round strike now seems unfortunate - with all due respect to his disappointment - in view of the timing.
One of the youngest in the German team took over responsibility against Lithuania. Wagner, who recently turned 21, was almost unstoppable in the minutes before half-time: Difficult layups, threes, the Orlando Magic NBA pro hit almost everything and already had 18 points at the break. "The offensive is running, Franz is running. The defense was also good for a large part,” analyzed Johannes Voigtmann at half-time. "It's just a bit bitter that Franz has such a run and we don't make more profit from it. But it's looking good.” Germany led 46:41. Wagner was also sought after by his teammates in the third quarter - and kept his hit rate high. Thanks to Valanciunas (34 points), the Lithuanians always stayed within striking distance. With a free throw, the center shortened the lead to 56:57 (26th). When the game finally threatened to tip over towards Lithuania shortly before the end of the quarter, Lo made room for himself with a quick hand change and scored a three-pointer to make it 66:63.
From the final quarter, the spectators in the arena saw a true battle. The lead changed almost after every attack. Until Wagner finally took control and carried away his teammates against the passionately fighting Lithuanians. First Wagner hit a deep three to 76:72 for Germany. When the 21-year-old stopped Lithuania's outstanding Jonas Valanciunas shortly afterwards on the defensive together with his teammates, Wagner was still heating up the spectators in the Cologne Arena.
Things got hectic in the final minutes of regulation time. Germany gambled away their lead before the Lithuanians started talking wildly to the referees. Because they had forgotten a free throw after a technical foul by national coach Herbert in the third quarter, the Balts demanded the subsequent execution of the missing throwing chance at the score of 89:89, which they were denied. It was initially unclear why the Lithuanians only noticed this minutes later. The scene will keep the world association Fiba busy. Lithuania lodged a protest against the scoring. “We only found out about it when the referees came to us. I have no idea how the protest will continue now," said Lo, who did not notice the scene during the game.
Schröder then missed the chance to win seven seconds before the end. In the first overtime, Germany looked like the loser before the German captain equalized to 96:96. In the second overtime, nerve-racking Lo secured the German victory with two threes. Butkevicius' missed throw marked the end of a basketball drama.
"It was really cool. The mood was really awesome. It was cool that we kept coming back. We have so much talent for playing basketball well that we can win games like this," explained match winner Wagner after the game and also spoke about the Lithuanian protest: "Of course I can understand the Lithuanians. If they had gotten the free throw after that, I would have been really angry. There are so many plays that can decide a game like this.”
Regardless of the decision of the world association, the DBB selection will meet European champions Slovenia around superstar Luka Doncic in the fourth group game on Tuesday (8.30 p.m., Magentasport).