Despite national coach Dirk Bauermann’s pre-match promise that Nowitzki would have “one of his big days in international basketball,” 33-year-old NBA star missed a number of throws early on, and found himself harried by at least two Lithuanians throughout the game.
The other Germans were not able to use the resulting free space effectively, and their hopes were finished by a late charge by the Lithuanians, who went on a 13:2 run in the final minutes that sparked wild celebrations in the 11,000-strong crowd in Vilnius.
The match had been much tighter earlier on, with Germany leading intermittently throughout.
Nowitzki took responsibility for the defeat after the match. “We fought, but in the end it was all my fault,” he said. “I was not in a fit state to deliver a good tournament.”
Bauermann added, “The boys gave everything and had the Lithuanians on the edge of defeat. We played for extra time, but it wasn’t enough.”
The defeat put Germany out of EuroBasket 2011 in the second group stage, meaning they fail to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. But it was always a tall order, as Germany would have needed to beat Lithuania by at least 11 points to progress on Sunday.
Germany’s top scorer was Chris Kaman, with 25 points, followed by Robin Benzing (18), Nowitzki (16) and Heiko Schaffartzik (13).