Germany, Franz Wagner freezed out in semifinal loss

Franz Wagner and Germany fell short of the EuroBasket title, falling to perennial power Spain in the semis. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
Franz Wagner and Germany fell short of the EuroBasket title, falling to perennial power Spain in the semis. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images) /

Germany was so close to the final, they and the crowd in Berlin could smell it. They had the beast in Spain stuttering a bit with their 3-point barrage and just the intense pressure they put on them with Dennis Schroder driving through the lane.

In the fourth quarter, Franz Wagner seemed to awaken, expanding his game beyond the spot-up shooting that had characterized his run at EuroBasket these past few weeks.

Early in the fourth quarter, Wagner hit his defender with a step-back fade-away jumper that was reminiscent of the legend, Dirk Nowitzki, and screamed a “Let’s go” (or its Germany equivalent) to give Germany a seven-point lead.

Germany was ready to celebrate with its home crowd and give itself a chance to win EuroBasket for the first time.

This is Spain though. As EuroBasket’s own Twitter account jokes: “Basketball is a simple game. Ten men chase a ball for 40 (45) minutes and at the end, Spain always win.”

Spain always wins.

Spain stormed back to beat Germany in the fourth quarter as Franz Wagner and Germany’s shooting luck ran out and they were unable to find offense late.

The defending World Cup champions, even with their transition away from the Gasol brothers and into a new era, do not go down that quietly. Germany is still a team on the rise with Wagner at the center of this revival. But this is the big leagues.

A hard lesson indeed.

Spain rallied to take the lead as Germany suddenly went cold. The dribble penetration from Dennis Schroder suddenly went away and Germany was left hoisting threes as Spain ultimately outpaced Germany 96-91 to advance to the EuroBasket final.

Spain raced ahead and Germany was unable to close the gap. They got it to within three off a wild three from Andreas Obst, but Lorenzo Brown answered to send it back to six at 86-80. Germany could not find a bucket and the rest became academic.

Wagner finished with 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting. He added to his spot-up shooting with a few nice drives, including one early where he stepped through a pair of defenders to finish at the rim and another where he hit a floater off the dribble as the defense closed out to him.

Germany down the stretch simply could not get into the paint or get to the foul line to supplement their stellar 3-point shooting. This was always Germany’s weakness offensively. They made it this far on their hot shooting.

That simply ran out.

Wagner was part of that. He made just 1 of 6 3-pointers though. A few of those misses came late as Germany desperately tried to get back into the game.

Too many missed shots and too few opportunities at the basket as both teams stalled out some late in the game.

The door stayed open but Germany could not get itself through it. Germany just did not have multiple ways to score, relying solely on Shcroder to create.

Spain figured that out and put a vice grip on Schroder throughout the fourth quarter. He scored 30 points on 11-for-17 shooting and added eight assists. But in the fourth quarter, he could not get going, scoring only two points on 1-for-3 shooting with two assists.

Germany never quite got comfortable giving the ball to Franz Wagner, still opting to try to get it inside to Daniel Theis who had a rough game on the inside offensively.

If this tournament showed anything and set anything up it is that Wagner will be a key part of the future for the Germany national team. And at some point, they too will hand him the keys. As the rookie, Wagner did not have that trust despite his scoring bursts and solid play.

That development will be something Germany will be as excited to see as Orlando Magic fans are. The Magic certainly have to love the confidence in which Wagner played his role.

But Germany lacked confidence ultimately in anyone besides Schroder to lead the way. That ultimately may be what held them back and kept them from surprising everyone and climbing over the behemoth in Spain.

If Spain has one advantage over most teams in this tournament, it is that trust. Trust in their coaching staff and the system they run and trust in each other from playing together and succeeding for so long. Even in this transitory stage.

Spain will face a tough challenge in France, a team that is knocking on the door for a major basketball title for a long time but has struggled to get over that hump. But no one should doubt Spain.

The goal then for Germany as they prepare now for the World Cup next year and for the Olympics in 2024, is to keep seeing the growth and development from Wagner to give them a second star and ball handler. They need one more player who can attack the basket and score and dish out. Wagner certainly can do that.

Wagner showed that throughout this tournament, even if it came in spurts and hints. Those hints have Magic fans excited too for all the things he can continue to become.

The warning though is just what happens when teams “freeze out” Wagner and do not keep him involved. Good things happen when Wagner is involved. And he will continue to make the right decisions.

Ultimately, Germany treated Wagner like the rookie of the group though. They have more experience and trust in Schroder. Spain knew that and dared someone else to beat them. No one else was able to break free and do that.

Germany’s identity throughout this tournament was its three-point shooting. That three-point shot went cold at the wrong moment for them to bring the title home on their home court.

Instead, Germany will have to settle for playing for bronze as they take on Poland on Sunday.

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Undoubtedly though, there is a bright future for them, for Wagner and the team’s future ahead. This feels like just the beginning for all of them despite a disappointing loss Friday.