BERLIN // Nemanja Bjelica made a difficult lay-up with less than a second remaining to lift Serbia to a 68-66 victory over Germany at the European basketball championship on Sunday.
Serbia improved to 2-0 in the tough Group B, while Germany fell to 1-1.
Bjelica led Serbia with 12 points in a close game, with neither team ever leading by more than seven. Dirk Nowitzki had 15 for Germany but he was only 5-for-15 from the field. Tibor Pleiss also added 15 points for Germany, while Dennis Schroeder had 11, shooting 4-for-11, along with six assists and four turnovers.
In Group A, Poland edged Russia 82-79, Macedonia topped the Netherlands 78-71 in Group C and Belgium dismissed Estonia 84-55 in Group D. Poland is 2-0, Russia 0-2, the Netherlands and Macedonia both 1-1, Belgium is 1-1 and Estonia 0-2.
Nowitzki had the chance to tie the game but he made only one of two free throws to leave Serbia up by one and 1:14 on the clock. Nemanja Nedovic’s drive gave Serbia a 3-point lead, only to see Heiko Schaffartzik nail a 3-pointer after Pleiss’s miss and Germany’s rebound.
With 3.7 seconds on the clock, Serbia called a timeout and devised the play for Bjelica. Milos Teodosic got the ball to Bjelica, who drove in past three Germans and put it in with an unorthodox shot.
“This was the most important game in the group,” Bjelica said. “We didn’t really have time to prepare for this game.”
Serbia played late the night before, beating Spain 80-70.
“It was an incredible shot,” Serbia’s coach Sasa Djordjevic said of the winning basket. “We tried to find him to take the shot and he did it.
“I knew this was going to be the toughest game in the group,” Djordjevic added. “We spent a lot of energy last night and this was the most important win.”
Serbia, silver medalist at last year’s World Cup, made only four of 30 3-point attempts, but had 14 offensive rebounds in a total of 40.
“Half of those shots were forced, Germany played very aggressive defense. It might be a negative record. But still, we kept them to 66 points and I’ll take that any time,” Djordjevic said.
“It’s bitter to lose in such a way,” Germany’s coach Chris Flemming said. “We knew that we can hold our own against the big teams. We could have won it.”
Follow us on twitter at @NatSportUAE