Germany has never lost to Greece in soccer as there always seems to be a clear advantage in playing class in favor for the Germans as winning in their history has been as easy so far with or without an Otto Rehhagel for Greeceas it is for Tom Brady to find new targets without an Aaron Hernandez, actress Amamnda Bynes going on the same destructive path as Lindsay Lohan, or FC Bayern Munich soccer team most likely blowing away the Bundesliga competition this season. However in basketball, it is another story as Greece has been a power house in Europe for years while Germany hasn´t had much to show at international tournaments in the last 20 years except for three medals in 1993(Gold), 2002(Bronze) at the world championships and a silver at the 2005 european championships. Both teams met at a four country tournament in Strassburg, France in preparation for the 2013 European championships and Greece slowly got started, but picked up more and more in each quarter destroying Germany 80-52. It was the second straight win for Greece in Strassburg while Germany lost their second game at the tournament. Germany who had lost to France twice in the last four days were hoping for more luck against Greece, but just couldn´t find a groove against their nasty and unpredictable Greece defense. “We played against a top team that defended very well. Their defense didn´t give us much space to work with and we used much energy on offense and with time we got more tired which led to more mistakes. They really had a very nasty way to defend in which they were always switching and it was just very unorthodox. It really takes a lot of time to get used to”, stressed BBC Bayreuth point guard Nicolai Simon.
Greece was without top players like Vassilis Spannoulis and Sofoklis baby Shaq Schortsanitis while Germany was without FC Bayern Munich forward Robin Benzing and Nicolai Simon. Germany got out of the starting blocks taking a quick 4-0 lead as Per Guether hit a pull up jumper and ex Bamberg center Tibor Pleiss connected on a left handed hook shot. Greece quickly showed their ability to knock down shots as if they were on a Sunday stroll licking ice cream at 35c on the shore of Rhodos as Loukas Mavrokefalidis and Euroleague veteran Antonio Fotsis nailed shots to give Greece the 5-4 lead. Both teams traded the lead for a few more minutes as Heiko Schaffartzik found a crack in the defense and slipped to the basket for a slick floater and 6-5 Germany lead. However Mavrokefaldis continued to give German head coach Frank Menz head aches with his hot shooting as he hit a jumper for the 7-6 Greece lead. Heiko Schaffartzik then hit a pull up jumper out of the fast break similar to the way Skyliner legend Pascal Roller did it all throughout his career As Germany led 9-7. Kostas Sloukas tied the score with a jumper, but Philipp Zwiener quickly gave Germany the lead again 11-9. Both teams had found their groove on offense rapidly, but neither team was able to establish an inside game. However Greece then turned the momentum in their favor and took control of the game with one substitution. France head coach Vincent Collet inserted sixth man Giorgas Printezis who led Greece on a 10-0 run to close out the first quarter and Germany would never be able to recover again. The Greek 206cm forward who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs and has played 117 Euroleague games scored back to back buckets and got to the free throw line. Ian Vougioukas also scored in the drive, but it was the bearded Printezis that got Greece into a strong offensive comfort zone and Germany had no answer on how to control him. “Printezis got Greece going. He is a very nasty player, because he is a very mobile four man that will go where it hurts and is very versatile. It was very tough against him”, stated Nicolai Simon.
In the second quarter, Germany was able to get back into the game with a mix of press defense and more aggressive play on offense. Bastian Doreth hit a jumer and Tibor Pleiss canned free throws as Germany trailed only 19-15. However Germany was unable to get a big run going as Greece just had consistent three point shooting in their vast arsenal as Startos Perperoglu connected on a three pointer for the 22-15 lead. Germany would show flashes of offensive strength as Heiko Schaffartzik gave a perfect lob pass to Andreas Seiferth for the easy lay in and Lucca Staiger hit free throws as Germany trailed only 24-19. Just when one thought that this might be the Germany run, Greece was able to ram a dagger into the German hearts as they rushed out on a 7-0 run to lead comfortably 31-19. In the run, Greece got another basket from Mavrokefaldis as he snuck back door for an easy lay in and Kostas Vasileidis hit back to back buckets. Heiko Schaffartzik stopped the run with one of his typical bombs from downtown as Germany trailed only 31-22. The Berlin native who has played for seven different German teams is the captain and with no NBA help from Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, Elias Harris or Dennis Schroeder has very much responsibility and at times looks more than overstrained to try to do everything on the court and be a type of savior, but even if he can´t master all at once, his heart is bigger than most players on the court. “He is our most experienced player and really leads us well. He will talk in the dressing room and we all listen. He does the best that he can to help us win”, added Nicolai Simon. Greece closed out the second quarter with baskets from Fotsis and Mavrokefaldis. Greece had the comfortable 39-26 lead at halftime. “Greece played very smart and just knew what they wanted to do, reading our defense well and doing their game plan well. They had good ball movement, made the extra pass and had their shooters ready”, commented ex Alba Berlin guard Nicolai Simon.
As the third quarter started, the game at first seemed like a day at a second hand store, as it seemed like many fans in the Sig arena were at a designer store as they were cheering more loudly at the French players like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw or Nando De Colo who entered the court to watch the third quarter. Greece continued to have their offense speak for themselves as they continued to connect their shots as Vougioukas and Printezis hit, but Germany continued to hover around a 10 point deficit scoring anyway they could. Alex King and Lucca Staiger nailed three pointers as Greece only led 46-32. Then came the best moment of 2011 NCAA champion of Uconn Nils Giffey who scored a big hoop with a nice hesitation step finding daylight and penetrating to the hoop with one second on the shot clock. He then made a pretty shovel pass to Pleiss for a put back and then made a steal leading Germany back trailing Greece only 46-36. Giffey is a newcomer with the German national team, but he isn´t shy, but using his minutes wisely and getting praise from his teammates. “I like his game. He has the prefect size and has a good attitude. I think that he has a bright future with the national team”, added Nicolai Simon. However Greece continued to stifle Germany with their unorthodox defense and were able to add on to their lead closing out the third quarter with a 14-6 run to lead 61-43. Printezis continued to hurt Germany with his powerful offense scoring twice hard to the hoop. Germany was more aggressive getting to the hole and cutting the Greece lead back to ten, but Greece used their 56% three point shooting to their advantage as Kostas Papanikolaou hit two three pointers and Fotsis drilled another as a ten point lead quickly turned into a 17 point lead. “We were able to cut their lead to ten points a few times, but we gave them three pointers and they hit them. Our goal was to help and collapse to close the zone, but they used it to their advantage with their outside shooting”, explained Nicolai Simon.
Greece quickly shut the door on Germany in any hopes of sneaking back into the game with a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter as they extended their lead to 74-43. Vougiokas, Vasileadis and Perperoglou all scored inside as Germany was helpless on defense and their strength seemed to be be waning. Schaffartzik ended the run with another deep three pointer as Germany trailed 74-46. Katsivelis then scored on a pretty head fake in the zone and dunk getting some crowd response. Germany closed out the game with a spurt and one of their better few minutes of play in the game scoring three consecutive times as one had to wonder why they couldn´t capitalize on their offense more consistently like this earlier in the game. Schaffartzik found Pleiss with a lob pass and easy put back. Germany definitely were unable to get their inside game more going. Germany then displayed lovely ball movement finding the extra pass to an open Zwiener who hit from outside and Giffey then dunked home the perfect give and go play. “We were tired in the fourth quarter. We made more mistakes. We fought until the end, but it is very frustrating when you try new things and they don’t work because the opponent is defending so well”, expressed Nicolai Simon.
Greece was led by Kostas Vasileidis and Giorgos Printezis with 12 points a piece. Antonis Fotsis added 11 points. Germany was led by captain Heiko Schaffartzik with 11 points. Tibor Pleiss and Bastian Doreth both had 8 points a piece. Greece shot very well with 56% from the field and from outside while Germany 40% from the field and 28% from outside. Greece won the rebound duel 24-23 and Germany had 16 turnovers while Greece had 11. Greece also dominated in the playmaking with 21-9 assists. Germany doesn´t have much time to relax as Croatia is the next opponent in less than 24 hours in their last game in Strassburg Sunday. “We have to forget this loss and bring more energy against Croatia. We are going into the Croatia game to win”, warned Tibor Pleiss.