Italy overcame 27 points and 15 rebounds by Dirk Nowitzki to edge Germany 84-82 in overtime at the start of the European Championship on Friday.
Spain, although playing without top star Pau Gasol, dominated reigning world champion Serbia-Montenegro 89-70 in a Group D match in Novi Sad behind 27 points from Juan Carlos Navarro. Also in Group D, late qualifier Israel topped Latvia 74-65.
In Group B in Podgorica, defending champion Lithuania beat Turkey 87-75, and Croatia edged Bulgaria 88-84, while in Group C in Belgrade, Slovenia defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina 74-65, and Greece's defense stifled France 64-50. In Vrsac, where Russia also beat Ukraine 86-74, Italy held Nowitzki scoreless in the first 12 minutes of the Group A game.
The NBA All-Star finished the first half with 9 points, but the last three were big. Following a three-pointer by Marko Pesic, Nowitzki hit another one at the buzzer, to cut Italy's halftime lead to 38-34. Italy, Olympic silver medalist, had been up by 10.
Nowitzki scored with a layup to open an 11-point German run early in the second half, and Germany was leading by 10 at the end of the third quarter. While Nowitzki was hurting Italy from the outside, center Patrick Femerling was doing some damage inside. He finished with 18 points.
Germany appeared to be cruising until guard Gianluca Basile keyed a 17-5 Italian run that gave his team a 74-71 lead. Germany guard Pascal Roller sank a 3-point shot with 20 seconds left to tie the game. In overtime, Nowitzki had a steal and hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 81-81, but Giacomo Galanda made his second straight 3-pointer for a 84-81 Italy lead. Nowitzki made one of two free throws. Basile led Italy with 25 points.
Russia's NBA star Andrei Kirilenko led his team with 22 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, three steals and two assists. Russia shot 41 percent, though, and Kirilenko made only seven of 20 field goal attempts. Spain extended its winning streak over Serbia-Montenegro to 6-0 since 2001 and dealt a huge blow to the home team, which includes five NBA players.
Serbia-Montenegro was trying to bounce back from a dismal 11th-place finish at last year's Athens Olympics but never found a way to break down Spain's organized game and contain Navarro, who made four of five 3-point shots. Spain also got 20 points from Jose Manuel Calderon, while Igor Rakocevic led the host with 20. Milan Gurovic had 12 points and five rebounds before fouling out early in the third quarter.
Dror Hagag had 18 points for Israel, which trailed Latvia 41-38 at halftime. Latvia scored only one point in the first 8:51 of the third quarter, allowing Israel to pull away for a decisive 56-49 lead. In Belgrade, NBA players Bostjan Nachbar and Primoz Brezec scored 16 points each in Slovenia's Group C win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Brezec added 9 rebounds.
Greece limited France to 14 points in the first half. Tony Parker of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs led France with 10 points in 28 minutes, while Dimitris Diamantidis had 13 for Greece. Matej Mamic's two consecutive 3-pointers gave Croatia a 7-point lead with 3 minutes left, and his team struggled to hold off underdog Bulgaria, which got 27 points from Todor Stoykov. Croatia received 22 and 20 points respectively from NBA players Gordan Giricek and Zoran Planinic.
Lithuania, fielding no NBA players and only four from the 2003 championship team, led by as many as 25 before Turkey pulled within seven. Turkey's effort fell short, however, as Ramunas Siskauskas got 20 points for Lithuania and twins Darius and Ksystof Lavrinovic added 14 each, AP reports.
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