Germany clinches final Olympic hoops berth
The German men's national basketball team punched their ticket to the 2008 Beijing Games with convincing 96-82 victory over Puerto Rico in the final game of the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Athens on Sunday.
Power forward Dirk Nowitzki, a former NBA MVP with the Dallas Mavericks, scored 32 points in the win, which secured Germany the last possible spot in the Olympic basketball tournament.
"He played like a man possessed," German head coach Dirk Bauermann said. "He played tremendous defence as well."
"He is one of the top three players in the world and I'm very happy for him."
Point guard Steffen Hamann chipped in with 19 points and backcourt-mate Demond Greene added 15 points in the win for Germany. Centre Chris Kaman, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers and was granted his German citizenship this month, scored 10 points and hauled down 12 rebounds.
Point guard Jose Barea, a teammate of Nowitzki with the Mavericks, paced Puerto Rico in a losing cause with 18 points.
Carlos Arroyo, the leading scorer for Puerto Rico in the tournament, was forced to sit with a muscle tear suffered in the team's semifinal loss to the host team from Greece.
Germany trailed by as many as five points in the first half before a 10-2 run gave them a 48-39 lead after 20 minutes of play.
In the third quarter, Germany pulled ahead for good with three consecutive three-pointers — two by Robert Garrett, one by Greene — within a 46-second span. Puerto Rico got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Croatia, which knocked off Canada in the quarter-finals, and Greece earned the other two spots at the Olympic tournament with wins Saturday in the semifinals of the qualifying tournament.
Germany and Greece have been placed in Group B at the Olympic tournament, which includes the hosts from China, the United States, Spain and Angola.
Croatia will join Iran, Lithuania, Argentina, Russia and Australia in Group A.
The top four from each of those groups will advance to the quarter-finals. The winner of each group with then face the fourth-placed team in the other and the runner-up will face the third-place team.
With files from the Associated Press