Niels Giffey has had a difficult season at Zalgiris Kaunas, but on Thursday evening the 31-year-old national player was as happy as he was in the best of times in Berlin. In the 76:63 win against Olympic silver medalist France in the first game of the European Basketball Championship, Giffey used his 18 minutes on the floor with enormous efficiency, scoring 13 points and four rebounds.
It wasn’t the NBA stars Dennis Schröder or Franz Wagner who carried the German team to the opening win on Thursday, but the players from the bench. Like Giffey, Maodo Lo also contributed 13 points, Johannes Thiemann was even the top scorer with one more. Alba Berlin was omnipresent on this first EM evening.
“We’ve played together all our years. That’s when it clicks, that’s when you know who has to be where in the Aito system,” said Giffey at Magentasport with a smile. Born in Berlin, he played for Alba until 2021 and was captain there for four years under the legendary Spanish coach Aito Garcia Reneses. Wagner took his first steps in professional basketball at Alba in 2018 as a 16-year-old and Thiemann and Lo are still under contract with the German champions.
Together they were responsible for 48 of the 76 German points against France. There has never been so much Berlin at a European Championship or World Cup. “Greetings to Alba. Since the German basketball has been given a different direction in recent years. That’s impressive,” said Magentasport expert Per Günther.
The performance of the entire German team against the French, who had been favored in the run-up, was also impressive. The team of national coach Gordon Herbert did an excellent job defensively and hardly let the opponent get into the rhythm. France’s most talented offensive player, Evan Fournier, who has been in the NBA for ten years and averages 14 points per game, hit just two of his ten shots and wasn’t a factor at all.
In the zone, too, the Germans around Daniel Theis, who had just recovered on time, gave little away against the much larger centers of the opponent. “We gave them a hard time all evening and they only scored 63 points. That has to be our intensity for the whole tournament,” said Theis.
Offensively, the depth of the German team was good news. In the end, Schröder had scored eleven points, but missed all of his six three-pointers. Along with Wagner and Big Man Johannes Voigtmann, the captain should form the mainstay of the DBB team, but all three remained largely pale on Thursday. That was especially true for Andreas Obst. The team’s most dangerous long-range shooter remained with zero points.
But that didn’t bother anyone in view of the great performances by Thiemann, Lo and Giffey. “JT made an incredible game, Niels comes off the bench like that. You can see that we have twelve people who can play,” said Theis. Schröder even called his playmaker colleague Lo the “next German player in the NBA”.
But the present is called Bosnia and Herzegovina. The second game is already on Saturday (2.30 p.m., Magentasport) and with a win the German team could take a big step towards the final round in Berlin. Bosnia is also 1-0 after beating Hungary in the opening round and certainly has the potential for an upset in the toughest preliminary round group of the European Championship, in which Lithuania also meets France and Slovenia meets Hungary on Saturday. With Jusuf Nurkic, the Bosnians have a powerful NBA center that is offensively much more versatile than France’s Rudy Gobert. In addition, there is the MVP of the Spanish league in the form of winger Dzanan Musa.
Nevertheless, the German team is going into the second game in front of their home crowd as favorites and the risk of a collective collapse after an opening win against France, as in 2013, seems to be rather low due to the versatility and unity of the team. “We have the chance to put Germany on the map,” said coach Herbert in an unusually offensive manner after the opening win. There is still a long way to go before the first medal since 2005.