HIROSHIMA (FIBA World Championship
) - Spain joined Angola in the knock-out stages of the 2006 FIBA World Championship with a convincing 92-71 over Germany in Group B.
Spain's backcourt duo Jose Manuel Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro combined for 39 points and Pau Gasol added 16 points as Pepu Hernandez's squad moved to a perfect 3-0 in the tournament.
"This was our game. We have to play like this every day. We knew what we wanted to do and we really played very well as a team with everyone knowing their roles," Calderon said.
Jorge Garbajosa added 12 points, but more importantly played tight defense on Dirk Nowitzki and held the Germany star to just 14 points on 5-9 shooting.
"They really tried to keep the ball away from me and no one had any room to operate," Nowitzki admitted. "We couldn't get into a rhythm in the second half and couldn't create any open shots for anyone."
Demond Greene also scored 14 points while Robert Garrett chipped in with 10.
The key to the game was Calderon's dribble penetration as he broke down the German offense and dished out six assists in addition to his 20 points. The Spain marksmen hit 11 of their 18 three-pointers for an amazing 61 per cent.
"Calderon and Navarro were amazing," Nowitzki said. "We would have had a tough time beating them even without Gasol."
The Iberians got a bit of revenge for two recent losses to Germany - in the 2005 EuroBasket semi-finals and the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Championships.
Spain saw center Gasol pick up his second foul just 3:38 into the game. But they made six straight shots in opening a 22-12 lead. Germany were a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line and Greene's three-pointer trimmed the deficit to just 25-22.
Spain led 26-22 after one period and pushed ahead 38-27. Pascal Roller's three-pointer made it 43-37 but the Spaniards were ahead 48-41 at the break.
Germany came out of the locker room hot from outside as Steffen Hamann and Greene hit three-pointers before Ademola Okulaja made it a one-point game 51-50 on a three-pointer with 8:04 remaining.
But Okulaja missed a jumper and the chance to pull ahead. Greene then committed two fouls, one of them an intentional, and Germany turned over the ball, giving Spain the opportunity to push out ahead 59-50 on six free throws and a Gasol hook shot with 6:01 left in the third.
"We made a couple of mistakes. They capitalised on them and they were gone," Nowitzki said. "You can't do that against a team like that."
Spain would not allow Nowitzki to beat them and closed down the middle, forcing Germany to win from the outside. A day after making 16 of 34 three-pointers agains New Zealand, Germany could hit just 10 of 29 from beyond the arc.
Bauermann's team missed four straight three-pointers as Spain pulled off a 10-0 run to make it 71-55.
"If we had gotten over the hump and taken the lead the game could have ended a bit differently. But Spain had another run and we didn't have the energy to come back again.
After leading 72-60 after three quarters, Hernandez's troops continually extended the lead throughout the fourth quarter and were never really threatened the rest of the way.
"We knew it was a special game. We believe in our defense," Hernandez said. "We knew the power of the German team, and sometimes when you play good defense you're in a better state of mind on offense too."
After a day off, Spain take on Angola in a battle of 3-0 teams while Germany look to get back on track against Panama. By DAVID HEIN
Exclusively for FIBA