SAITAMA (FIBA World Championship) - Dirk Nowitzki had hoped for more. Instead, the German superstar struggled to find his rhythm against Team USA and was held to 15 points in a 85-65 quarter-final loss at the FIBA World Championship.
Nowitzki was just three of 12 from the floor and turned the ball over five times. He did make all nine of his free throws, but it was not the kind of form from the big man which saw him earn MVP honors at last year's EuroBasket.
He spoke about the defeat to the Americans after the game.
FIBA: Dirk, your team only trailed 40-39 at half-time so that must have been a tough loss.
Nowitzki: "We gave everything we had. We really stuck with them in the first half. In the second half, they increased the pressure a little bit and we had a few dumb mistakes. And you can't do that against such a good team like that. And they used them really well. Once they had the lead, they played very cleverly. They hit some big shots from the outside and we never really got close to them."
FIBA: Why did you struggled with your shooting today?
Nowitzki: "Yeah, I didn't really find my rhythm and that's a little disappointing, especially because we would have had a chance.
FIBA: What was the difference in the game?
Nowitzki: "We had enough chances in the first half and then started turning the ball over in the third quarter. And they ran away with it. They're good when they have the lead."
FIBA: Was the Americans' athleticism just too much for Germany today?
Nowitzki: "We knew we were going to turn over the ball a little bit. They're quick. They have quick hands, quick feet. They're long and they're high jumpers. We wanted to stay away from turnovers but they're so good at forcing some. They made some good plays and won the game."
FIBA: Talk a bit more about their defense in that second half.
Nowitzki: "They picked up their intensity. They ran some full-court pressure. They double-teamed us some in the backcourt and tried to create some turnovers and they did. They're so athletic and play a run-and-jump defense. They were just a little more active on the defensive end. And those couple of minutes were enough for them to get the lead and coast to the win."
FIBA: Would you say the Americans are now the favorites in this tournament?
Nowitzki: "All four (semi-finalists) are super teams. I don't think there's any one top favorite. They all have shown that they can give a top performance. They've all played at a very high level and they are really the top four teams. They are all deservedly where they are."
FIBA: Regarding your shooting, was it their defense or did you just not have your best day?
Nowitzki: "It's a little of both. They really came at me, but that was nothing new. Still I have some good shots and good looks. I missed some that I should have made. But unfortunately, I didn't hit enough to lead the team to the win."
FIBA: Was their depth too much for the team?
Nowitzki: "I think we were doing fine. Ademola (Okulaja) and I having three fouls in the first half hurt us a little bit, but we still kept playing in the second half and staying out of foul trouble as good as we could. Obviously they have 10, 12 guys they can throw in and they won the game."
FIBA: What are you expecting against France on Thursday?
Nowitzki: "We're not really worried about that. We just lost a tough game. We'll start worrying about France tomorrow. This was a tough loss, but I think we're all proud enough to finish the tournament with two wins. That's our goal now. So we'll see what happens."
FIBA: What do you think about the semi-final between Greece and the United States and what about Spain and Argentina?
Nowitzki: "Greece-US is going to be a great game. Both teams are very, very deep. They're physical. Both have good shooters. So it's going to be a battle. Same thing with Spain and Argentina. Both semi-finals will be fun to watch. And it's going to be a great finish to the tournament."
By David Hein