MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Have a summer, Germany. Dirk Nowitzki went into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and now his homeland stands atop the men’s international basketball world.
Tournament MVP Dennis Schroder scored 28 points, Franz Wagner added 19 and Germany capped off an unbeaten run through the World Cup by holding off Serbia 83-77 in the final on Sunday night. It was Germany’s first World Cup title; its previous top showing in the event was a bronze at Indianapolis in 2002.
Germany went 8-0 in the tournament, becoming the fifth consecutive World Cup champion to go unbeaten. Schroder's postgame news conference was briefly interrupted by his teammates, who doused him with water as they jumped and chanted in celebration.
“It's an unbelievable group,” Schroder said. “It's unbelievable going 8-0.”
Germany coach Gordie Herbert took the job in 2021, and his first official order of business was driving to see Schroder. They spent three or four hours together that first day, building a relationship that is now good as gold.
“It's a little bit of a surreal moment,” Herbert said. “It's like I told the players. It's a tremendous group of players, but we were a team first. Guys cared about each other and they challenged each other.”
Aleksa Avramovic scored 21 and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 17 for Serbia (6-2), which lost the title game for the second time in the last three tournaments. It was routed by the U.S. 129-92 in the 2014 gold-medal game, and little was expected of the team this summer — merely because its best player, Nikola Jokic of the NBA champion Denver Nuggets, decided not to play and instead opted to rest for the coming season.
But Serbia went on a surprise run, fueled by inspiration the team took from the loss of reserve forward Borisa Simanic. He was fouled late in a first-round win against South Sudan, needed surgery that night for internal injuries and then a second surgery was required a few days later to remove one of his kidneys.
Simanic will get a medal. But it’ll be silver, after Germany simply proved too tough.
“We made great success,” Avramovic said. “Our heads are up. This is already past, and our next goal is to go the Olympic Games and make better success than this. Germany, they have been playing amazing. ... We know that we made our country happy and put a smile on them.”
A 22-10 run in the third quarter gave Germany all the breathing room it needed after a back-and-forth opening half, and Serbia couldn’t reclaim the lead down the stretch. It got within 79-77 after Marko Guduric made a pair of free throws with 39.5 seconds left, but Schroder blew past two defenders for a layup on the ensuing German possession to restore a four-point edge.
The notion of Germany being the world’s best in basketball was far-fetched even when Nowitzki was the country’s best player.
“In Germany, people are starting to recognize what we're doing for our country,” Schroder said. “We want our respect as well.”
That respect was earned. Germany came up with a plan to ask its best players for a three-year commitment to the national team, with eyes on this World Cup and the Paris Olympics. This was the second year of that plan, and a team that didn’t even get out of the opening round at any of the last three World Cups — finishing 17th in 2010, not qualifying in 2014 and finishing 18th in 2019 — now has the Naismith Trophy in its possession for the next four years.
“They deserved this win,” Serbia coach Svetislav Petic said. “They played 40 minutes at a high level.”