In a truly must win game for the Germans at EuroBasket 2011, Chris Kaman of the Los Angeles Clippers scored 20 points to lead Germany to a come from behind victory over Turkey. Trailing big in the first half (they were down 22-10 at one point) and with the indispensable Dirk Nowitzki on the bench with foul trouble, it was Kaman who provided the star power to lift Germany to victory and keep their hopes of advancing alive.
It started off badly. Kaman was 1 for 6 in the first quarter, and he and Nowitzki were a combined 3 for 12 midway through the second quarter as they fell behind more and more. When Dirk picked up his third foul with five minutes left in the first half and Germany still down 8, it seemed as good as over for Deutschland. But their defense held Turkey down for the rest of the half, and they managed to cut the lead to three before halftime, all with Dirk on the bench.
The game was a a tale of two halves. The first half was pretty terrible, truth be told. For most of it, Germany was about as bad as a team can be. Fortunately for them, Turkey was much better. The half ended 26-23 - 49 total points scored. But the second half was much more fluid, and the teams combined for almost as many points in each of the next two quarters.
After starting the game 1 for 6, Kaman made 8 of his next 10 shots. When his jump shot is falling, as it was in the second half, he is a very difficult cover. He has a combination of offensive skills extremely rare in a man his size. He is a very good (I might even say excellent) face up shooter out to 18 or 20 feet; he has an array of back to the basket moves; and he has enough skill and quickness to put the ball on the floor and beat his defender with the dribble. He doesn't always put it all together, but when he does, he's tough to stop. Kaman also had a nice defensive game, blocking three shots and altering many others.
Kaman didn't do it alone however. Dirk also warmed up after his cold start and he finished with 19, but his minutes were limited all game by the fouls - he picked up his fourth with 3:31 left in the third (bear in mind that you are disqualified at 5 in international play). With Robin Benzing a complete non-factor (0 for 5 today) they needed someone else to step up and it turned out to be Philipp Schwethelm. Now, I've watched all of Germany's games in this EuroBasket, and several from the World Championships last year as well (his first major tournament on the national team), and I can honestly say I had never noticed him before. But today he had one of those games (or really one of those quarters), scoring 11 fourth quarter points that included three three pointers and another long jump shot. Schwethelm absolutely carried the offense in the fourth - Dirk had only two points in the quarter before he sank four free throws in the final 20 seconds to ice the game.
For Turkey, Omer Asik tried to pull them back into the game at the end. Asik, coming off his rookie season with the Bulls, is impossibly long and very active. He was a demon on the offensive boards in this game, with 7 of his 11 rebounds coming on the offensive end. He scored 19 points, almost exclusively on dunks and put backs. His offensive repertoire appears to be limited to finishing on the pick and roll (which is does well) and put backs, but he is very effective at those things. Unfortunately, he's a terrible free throw shooter, and was 1 for 5 today. In fact, Turkey wins this game if they shoot remotely well from the line - they missed 12 of 22 on the game.
The other Turkish players you've heard of were a mixed bag. Enes Kanter, the third overall pick from the draft who will be a Utah rookie this season, looked great when he was in. He was 5 for 5 shooting, and seems to be a highly polished low post scorer - surprising for a 19 year old. He's smaller than I thought - more like 6'10" than 7 feet and not particularly long - which could be a problem in the NBA if they expect him to play center. But the dude can score. Hedo Turkoglu was unspectacular if solid, with 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. And then there was Ersan Ilyasova. Last year at the worlds, and two years ago at EuroBasket, Ilyasova looked like a star and he's shown some flashes playing for the Bucks as well. Today he was terrible - 1 for 7 and lost out there. (He did have 7 rebounds.)
For Germany, this win kept their faint hopes of advancing alive, but they'll need another win - and maybe some more help as well. Sunday is the last day of Group E, and Germany plays Lithuania in the final game of the day. If Turkey beats Serbia, then Germany will advance with a win. If Serbia beats Turkey and Germany beats Lithuania, then I think it will come down to point differential between Germany, Lithuania and Serbia - where Germany currently has a slight edge on Serbia for the final spot. We'll know exactly what needs to happen by the time the last game tips off on Sunday of course, but I'm pretty sure Germany will still have a chance at that point, though they may find themselves in a position where they not only have to win, but have to win by a certain number of points.