Franz Wagner puts finishing touches in Germany’s surprising upset win

Franz Wagner scored eight points for Germany in a EuroBasket win over France. (Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)
Franz Wagner scored eight points for Germany in a EuroBasket win over France. (Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images) /

There was a lot riding on Germany’s opening game against EuroBasket contender.

Germany is the host country, playing games in Cologne, and trying to build on a triumphant return to the 2021 Olympics. German National Team legend Dirk Nowitzki had his national team No. 14 retired before the game, reminding everyone of the team’s glory days, including a EuroBasket silver medal in 2005.

It would be difficult to lose on a night like this.

But it was also Franz Wagner’s first time playing in a major intercontinental tournament for his national team. The quick hand shake with the legendary Nowitzki as he ran onto the court surely only added to the moment. It was probably easy to feel the nerves for the young player.

And Wagner and Germany looked nervous early on offensively. One of Wagner’s first possessions saw him surprisingly bobble the ball. One of his two first-half field goals saw him bobble the catch and have to stick with the ball to regain possession and finish at the rim.

This was not Wagner’s finest game statistically for Germany. And for the German National Team to achieve its goals and advance, they will need Franz Wagner at his best alongside Dennis Schroder.

For this game? They just needed Wagner to finish the job. The supporting cast did the rest.

Germany’s supporting cast stepped up in a big way to deliver a big win over France to open EuroBasket. Franz Wagner looked nervous but made the final play to determine the result.

Franz Wagner did his work defensively, helping keep France on the perimeter hoisting threes and locking up Evan Fournier in an environment he typically dominates, but he had his highlight play to put Germany’s 76-63 win over France to open play at EuroBasket.

Franz Wagner squeezed through two defenders late in the fourth quarter to get into the lane when he met up with Rudy Gobert. Wagner gave a pump fake, spun around, paused and then hit a fadeaway jumper over Gobert.

That was the big highlight for Wagner this game as he scored eight points on 4-for-7 shooting, adding three rebounds and three assists. It was not the most statistically active game for him. That will hopefully mean Wagner has shaken off some of the nerves of playing in this major tournament.

Germany had plenty of players lift the team up.

Johannes Thiemann came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points. Maodo Lo and Niels Giffey each had 13 off the bench. It was Germany’s depth that really surprised in this one. They hit big 3-pointers and keyed the big run in the third quarter that gave Germany the lead for good.

The real hero was the discipline Germany showed defensively. This was an area where Wagner contributed in a major way. He was sharp with his closeouts, keeping attackers on the perimeter rather than driving to the paint. The only area where he got beat was on a post-up from Guerschon Yabusele in the first half.

France, as a team, shot only 38 percent from the floor and 7 for 21 from deep. the missed 8 of 24 free throws, a rough showing from the foul line especially with the game close in the third quarter. France had 17 turnovers too, helping spark Germany’s sometimes struggling offense.

Germany’s defense and defensive discipline was impressive. Just as much as their shooting was — 10 of 32 from deep including three each from Lo and Giffey.

Everyone lifted each other up for Germany to create a festive atmosphere for the win.

And Germany indeed won a game where Wagner seemed to get his feet wet. There will be plenty of opporutnities for Wagner to assert himself. He still contributed meaningfully in the end, even if it did not show in the box score completely.

For Germany, this game will almost certianly mean they advance to the knockout stage. It may also adjust some of the expectations for what the national team could do in their home tournament. Their bench stepped up in an unexpected way. If that becomes normal, even witout much size, Germany becomes a sneaky contender.

This is just a solid team that plays smart, hard and together. The question will be whether they can get the burst from their NBA stars to take that next step.

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It sure looks like they will be able to as Wagner gets more comfortable.