ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A weakened German team, missing their talismanic NBA forward Dirk Nowitzki, produced the shock of the world championship on Sunday with an 82-81 win over Serbia after two overtime periods.
Tournament favorites the U.S. cruised to a 99-77 rout of Slovenia, holders Spain brushed aside New Zealand 101-84 while 2006 finalists Greece had to dig deep to overcome the unfancied opposition of Puerto Rico.
Hosts Turkey, roared on by their fans, dismissed Russia 65-56 and Argentina, the 2004 Olympic champions, rallied from a six-point halftime deficit in a 74-72 defeat of Australia.
Germany’s chances of advancing into the last 16 looked slim after Nowitzki had pulled out of the 24-team event, but his understudy Jan-Hendrik Jagla produced a truly scintillating performance to give the Germans their first win.
Jagla hit an incredible three-pointer in the final minute of the rip-roaring contest, from an almost impossible angle, to give the Germans an 82-77 lead after Serbia had twice forced overtime with a barrage of long-range efforts.
The towering blond-haired forward, as much a Nowitzki lookalike in appearance as in talent, finished with a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds, having sunk eight of his 12 shots and four of six from three-point range.
Germany, who lost their opening match to Argentina, are still not assured of a berth in the knockout rounds but victory against the much more fancied Serbians gave their coach Dirk Bauermann a tremendous confidence boost.
“The team showed remarkable resilience and spirit to earn a sensational win today, the most important and most spectacular victory carved out by this group of players,” Bauermann said.
Jagla added: “We fought for every possession and always believed we could win it, it is a big step forward for us to improve and be able to win games like this one.”
Strong starts in each half allowed the United States to treat an appreciative crowd in the Abdi Ikpeci Arena to a swashbuckling display of fast breaks, slam-dunks and prolific perimeter shooting.
The U.S. raced to an 18-6 lead which swelled to 59-32 early in the second half and although they at times made sloppy turnovers with traveling violations, their size and skill was too much for the battling Slovenians.
Forward Kevin Durant, who was outstanding in Saturday’s opening win over Croatia, led the United States with 22 points, Rudy Gay added 16 in just 15 minutes on the court and center Kevin Love chipped in 10 to go with 11 rebounds.
Spain recovered from the opening day’s upset by France to beat New Zealand thanks to 22 points from center Marc Gasol and 18 by guard Juan Carlos Navarro.
The Greeks trailed Puerto Rico for the best part of their enthralling clash but came out on top 83-80 on the back of 28 points from guard Vasileios Spanoulis, after a crucial 6-0 run in the final two minutes.